Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Aims and Objectives on the Whiteboard

Thank you to Mike about his post on stories about aims on the board.  I suppose writing up aims and objectives in the lesson is fast becoming the norm.  It is becoming more and more established, particularly in the UK, for teachers to be able to show students the aims and objectives of the lesson.  This is, in relation to how private language schools in the UK operate, are required to show clear and transparent progress for students and within the lesson, as expected by British Council and the Independent School Inspectorate.  However, why do teachers consider writing the aims or objectives of lessons on the whiteboard as a waste of time or too bureaucratic?  Lesson aims have always been conveyed, usually orally, and if aims and objectives are shown on the whiteboard, they can then be crossed out or the lesson could demonstrate progress during the day.  What is the difficulty?

When I reflect back on my CELTA course, I was expected to write clear aims and objectives for the lesson.  This was more relevant  when I undertook the DELTA equivalent.  I consider this more professional and explicit.  If I were to question teachers: “What are your aims for today’s lesson?”, there are likely to a range of answers from “speaking” to “grammar”.  Are these really aims?  The next question I am likely to ask is “Why?”.  Teachers are usually quite defensive and, as was suggested in one of Mike’s replies, from Josh Round, teachers feel like they are going to be revealing something that I don’t necessarily want to.  However, you could always build up the context and then once interest is generated, teachers could then stipulate what is going to be covered or demonstrated during the day.  Another way around this is to write up the aims and objectives once they have been achieved as a post-reflection with teachers showing learners that they have achieved particular areas within their day of study.

I suppose the key point to writing up lesson aims is that teachers are planning their courses to suit their students’ weaknesses.  It is a good diagnostic tool as the teacher could reflect on what areas of language could be developed or what does not require greater support.  Unfortunately, due to the ever-increasing emphasis on continuous assessment (which in itself is not a bad thing and does professionalize the industry), it requires teachers to another thing to do during the initial part of the lesson.  However, I do believe that it does get teachers to pre-reflect and post-reflect on their lessons and offer an opportunity for teachers to better plan their daily and weekly lessons as well as the curriculum as a whole.

What do you think about writing up lesson aims on the whiteboard?  Do you believe that it would devalue the lesson itself?  Would it give the ‘game away’ for the building of context?  Are you involved with schemes of work, aims and objectives of lessons and the (perceived) increasing paperwork involved with EFL or ESOL in the UK or abroad?  Does the writing of aims and objectives demonstrate greater professionalism in the industry?  Is there a better way than writing up aims and objectives on the whiteboard?


  1. Hi Martin,

    Funnily enough, I was having this conversation with a colleague the other day.

    I find it a little time-consuming and the students don’t often understand why I am showing them (many were almost scratching their heads).

    That is not to say I think it’s a bad idea, more that I think it really varies on your group. That particular group were highly motivated EAP students so it was the kind of thing they would expect but perhaps it was a bit too ‘meta’ for them and they would rather I spent the time on their language and learning.

    Good points raised, though and a very interesting article.


    • Martin Sketchley

      That’s very true Steve. As with any lesson or class, it all depends on the context that we are teaching. Sometimes I like to reveal the aims at the end to highlight what was covered in the lesson and confirmation that I did indeed deliver a lesson. All fun and games at the end of the day.

      • Hi again. Funnily enough, I just had feedback on an observation as we are preparing for a British Council inspection. My line manager wrote ‘no objectives displayed’, but did not recommend me to do this in future either – still a grey area then!

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