Making the Most of Learning Intentions

“Close your eyes, take a deep breath in, and set your intention for this class.”

Learning Intentions | Leaders of Evolution

Those were the first words that the online yoga instructor directed the class to do. 

If you have taken a yoga or pilates class, or have attended any kind of workshop related to connecting with oneself, you have likely heard this line before. The instructor of such classes typically follow up his or her first instruction with “decide for yourself what you want to get from this class” and then makes suggestions like “push your flexibility to its limits” or “focus on stretching the part of your body that is tight”.

Then, at the end of the class during the cool down, a thoughtful instructor will prompt students to revisit their intention and ask themselves if they were able to reach their intention

It wasn’t until after I was a teacher for two years that I connected this bit of my yoga class routine to something I did every day in the classroom.

Learning Intentions

Learning intentions (also known as learning objectives) are statements regarding what students are expected to learn during a set amount of time. While this time frame can vary from an entire unit down to a singular activity, learning intentions are most commonly utilized on the lesson plan level. 

Learning intentions are a key element of any lesson plan and help construct the framework of the lesson. When used properly, they should guide which activities are applicable to the content in focus and keep a teacher (and ultimately their students) on the path to accomplishing their learning goals.


Around the globe, learning intentions may be written using slightly different language but they all typically begin with the phrase “Students will be able to” followed by the learning skill that the lesson is designed to achieve.

This wording is crucial as it prompts the learning intention to be completed with a verb. For example, “Students will be able to identify the characteristics of reflective leadership.” When beginning with such a phrase, teachers must directly focus on what learning skills they want their students to walk away with instead of merely the content they need to cover. A lesson planning session that begins with properly written learning intentions is much more likely to remain cohesive and enhance student learning.


Before I became a teacher, learning intentions were simply things that were written in the corners of my teachers’ chalkboards. Their stems were often made into an acronym, “SWBAT”, and the statements remained unchanged on the chalkboards day in and day out. I never paid much attention to them, nor understood how useful they could be.

I had plenty of good teachers during my time in school, but I cannot remember a single one that routinely addressed the learning intention for the class. Now as a professional peer, I can confidently say that that is a missed opportunity.

Learning intentions are useful to students and teachers in all parts of a lesson.

The Beginning:

Having students read the learning objectives at the very start of the class is a great way to inform students of what the class will be about and prime their brains for the learning that is to come. By routinely dedicating a minute or two at the start of a lesson to the learning intentions you will avoid the commonly asked question “Ms., what are we going to do today?” as well as alert students to what they should be focusing on.

During the lesson:

Regularly referring back to the learning intentions during a lesson is a great way to keep students concentrated on the desired learning skills. When first incorporating learning intentions into class teachers can overtly model this practice, but over time students should begin to revisit the learning intentions on their own. If a lesson has multiple learning intentions, reviewing them throughout the lesson, especially when directing attention to a different intention, will be particularly helpful. For learning intentions to be the most beneficial to students, they should be visible to all students for the entirety of the lesson.

The End:

Learning intentions are a great built-in self-assessment for students. At the end of each class, a student should be able to reread the learning intentions and gauge whether he or she has acquired the listed skill. This act of reflection is not only helpful to student learning but a great practice in building students’ self-awareness

Revisiting learning intentions at the end of a lesson is also a great time to connect the classroom lesson to students’ current lives and futures. Having students draw the connection between their newly acquired skills and the outside world takes understanding to the next level and when used over time increases student engagement and buy-in for a course.

Learning Intentions and Leaders of Evolution

Learning Intentions | Leaders of Evolution

At Leaders of Evolution, we believe that learning intentions are essential to delivering the most effective lesson. That is why they are clearly presented to both instructors and students.

Facilitators of our online courses can easily locate learning intentions at the beginning of each lesson plan so they can be incorporated into class just as they would for any other topic.

Students are then reminded of these learning intentions while working through online programming and are prompted to self-assess their understanding or demonstrate their newly learned skills through an online quiz.

Leaders of Evolution lessons are designed to give students the skills they need to be successful inside and outside the classroom both now and in the future. Rather than only providing students with information, Leaders of Evolution’s goal is to have students learning skills and immediately being able to put them into practice.

Let’s work together to transform our learning intentions from blackboard decoration into an effective element of our daily lessons.

To learn more about how Leaders of Evolution can support your use of learning intentions please click here to contact us.

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Leaders of Evolution are passionate about education. We expertly design and deliver technology enhanced e-learning courses focused on leadership, social and emotional learning, career readiness and sports coaching for students, teachers, athletes, coaches and the wider community.

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Hannah Hunt

Former Division 1 lacrosse player who is still trying to get her fill of competition through local club sports and intramurals. Hannah is her happiest when doing something active or spending time with friends and family. Currently living abroad with her husband, she stays busy learning the language, exploring new places, and cooking fun recipes.


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