SLO SLO_cycle

This post was originally published by Matt Drewette-Card on Sept. 30, 2015 at


A common theme of my writing this year is about simplification.

Because sometimes we make things so much harder than they need to be.

In my humble opinion, education is the HUB of acronyms and buzzwords.  “Use NWEA or a DRA for AYP to meet NCLB in an IEP.”   “Differentiate using best-practices and research-based strategies with a mindset of data-driven decision making and customizable learning environments that use valid and reliable formative assessments.”  Where both of those statements are actionable and actual statements that can be heard in any school system across the country, we continually add more to the mix… to the point of over-saturation.  The “educational eye-roll”, I call it.  When a policy-wonk or a head-in-the-clouds, idealistic and out-of-the-box thinking curriculum coordinator (hey… sounding too familiar here…) starts using this language, many teachers and educators have become accustomed to rolling their eyes back and letting the edu-babble wash over them.  It’s not conscious… it’s due to over-saturation.  Too much; too often; little actual applicability.

The latest: Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).

To honor my belief that time is precious and a gift, I’ll spare you the time here of “defining” an SLO.  Why?  You can Google that yourself.  The object of this post is not to define an SLO, but rather, to SIMPLIFY it.  (Check out the end of this post for some of my top resources for SLO information, design, etc.).

To simplify SLOs, it’s important to break it down into simple understandable language.  That means few words, and those few words need to be limited in complexity and difficulty.

So if I could summarize and simplify SLO, it would be: good teaching.

Huh?  I thought an SLO was an assessment?

It is, but all assessment is predicated in teaching.  All assessment is based on learning goals/standards, and the instruction that leads to that learning goal.  Assessment is the bridge between what is intended to be learned, and what was actually learned (ain’t nuttin but a validity thang).  An SLO is indeed an assessment that is based on good teaching practices.  Wait… I think I just defined an SLO…  didn’t I say I wouldn’t do that?  OOPS.

Anyway, an SLO looks like this:

  1. Identify a learning goal
  2. Develop a timeline to measure achievement of the learning goal
    1. Include a pretest to determine prior knowledge baseline
  3. Design a scaffolded, backwards-planned instructional map
  4. Create specific and individualized growth targets
    1. This is the biggest and most unique component` of an SLO.  It requires teachers to use the data from the pretest to design (hopefully collaboratively with the students) achievable and measurable goals to prove proficiency of the measured learning goal.
  5. Teach.  Assess.  Evaluate growth.  Adjust instruction accordingly.  Repeat.

Last time I checked, those 5 stages are the basic definitions and principles of good teaching.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  Keep it simple; keep it focused on learning and effective instruction.  That’s my $0.02.

Or did I miss something?

As promised, here are my favorite resources for SLOs:


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