I have a confession to make.
Lesson aims scare me. Just a bit, not a lot, but they do scare me. My first exposure to them was during the miserable 6 months I spent training as a state-school teacher in the UK: not only were there aims, but there were objectives, which apparently were slightly different, and there had to be one aim and three objectives – or was it one objective and three aims? – differentiated by level to divide the students neatly into high, medium and low achievers. Oh, and they couldn’t contain any reference to what students would be doing, only what they’d be learning. But they couldn’t be too vague either. My aims were never good enough. I was told this often.
When I did the CELTA, I got into trouble again! The tutor actually laughed at one of my aims, saying that it didn’t require students to learn anything – if I remember correctly, this one had been phrased ‘Students will practise…’.
Fast-forward a sheaf of years, and I was on the academic team of a mid-sized teaching organisation, working with upwards of thirty existing workbooks and taking a lead in designing new ones. I found that my lesson aims were not alone in being variously vague, tentative, or contorted in order to try and fit around what the lessons were actually ‘about’. We already had plenty of aims that sounded a bit odd, or else didn’t quite match the lesson content, and yet rewording them took a lot longer, and caused more disagreement, than almost any other intricacies of course planning.
So here’s a blog post about aims, and why on earth we torture ourselves (or the educational establishment tortures me, anyhow) with the requirement to state them in lesson plans.