Learning objectives articulate the knowledge and skills you want your students to acquire by the end of the course. A learning objective describes what the learner will know or be able to do after the learning experience rather than what the learner will be exposed to during the instruction.
Defining the learning objectives will enable you to select and organise course content, as well as, to determine appropriate assessment and instructional strategies. It will also help students to focus their learning efforts and monitor their own progress.
Writing Learning Objectives
Writing learning objectives is the best way to begin the dynamic process of aligning the three components in course design: learning objectives, assessment and instructional strategies.
All learning objectives are essentially statements of:
- who the Audience (learner) is,
- the measurable action verb describing the desired Behavior, and
- the Content/ Criteria (the content to be covered and the criteria for acceptable performance).
- The Degree or standard that the learner must meet to reach the acceptable performance.
The following are examples of learning objectives:
|Description of Learner (Audience)||Measurable Action Verb (Behaviour)||Performance (Content/Criteria)|
|The Economics student will be able to||evaluate||the effectiveness of expansionary monetary policy in stimulating real output in the economy, under the fixed and flexible exchange rate regime, using the IS-LM-BP analysis with 80% accuracy.|
|The Quantitative Methods student will be able to||perform||the seven steps in a hypothesis test for equality in two population means using the appropriate formula.|
|The Corporate Finance student will be able to||apply||all five standard corporate valuation methods in the given case analyses of corporate restructuring approaches.|
They should be written in a language that is easily understood by students and clearly related to the programme learning outcomes.
|Characteristic of Clear Learning Objective||Description|
|Clearly stated tasks||Free from jargon and complex vocabulary; describe specific and achievable tasks (such as ‘describe’, ‘analyse’ or ‘evaluate’) NOT vague tasks (like ‘appreciate’, ‘understand’ or ‘explore’).|
|Important learning goals||Describe the essential (rather than trivial) learning in the course which a student must achieve.|
|Achievable||Can be achieved within the given period and sufficient resources are available.|
|Demonstrable and measurable||Can be demonstrated in a tangible way; are assessable; achievement and quality of achievement can be observed.|
|Fair and equitable||All students, including those with disabilities or constraints, have a fair chance of achieving them.|
|Linked to course and program objectives||Consider the broader goals - i.e. course, program and institutional goals.|
Action Verbs Using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy
The most critical part in defining a learning objective is the description of the measurable and observable learning action. In your statement of desired learning objectives, the description of the actions performed by the learner will both demonstrate and become a measure of what he/she has learnt.
You may consider the following list of useful action verbs based on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. For further details, you may refer to the IOWA State University CELT website here.
|Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy Level||Verbs|
Recognising or recalling knowledge, facts or concepts.
Verbs: define, describe, identify, know, label, list, match, name, outline, recall, recognise, reproduce, select, state, locate
Constructing meaning from instructional messages.
Verbs: illustrate, defend, compare, distinguish, estimate, explain, classify, generalise, interpret, paraphrase, predict, rewrite, summarise, translate
Using ideas and concepts to solve problems.
Verbs: implement, organise, dramatise, solve, construct, demonstrate, discover, manipulate, modify, operate, predict, prepare, produce, relate, show, solve, choose
Breaking something down into components, seeing relationships and an overall structure.
Verbs: analyse, break down, compare, select, contrast, deconstruct, discriminate, distinguishes, identify, outline
Making judgments based on criteria and standards.
Verbs: rank, assess, monitor, check, test, judge
Reorganise diverse elements to form a new pattern or structure.
Verbs: generate, plan, compose, develop, create, invent, organise, construct, produce, compile, design, devise
In developing higher-order thinking skills (e.g. critical thinking and problem-solving) in your students, you can write learning objectives that focus on higher-order thinking (i.e. analyse, evaluate and create).
- Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., & Bloom, B. S. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Allyn & Bacon.
- Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (n.d.) Retrieved from Iowa State University website http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/effective-teaching-practices/revised-blooms-taxonomy
- Eberly Centre (n.d.). Learning Objectives. Retrieved from Carnegie Mellon University website https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/design/learningobjectives.html
- Smaldino, S. , Lowther, D. and Russell, J. (2007) Instructional Media and Technologies for Learning, 9th Edition. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc.
- Smith, P. L. & Ragan, T. J. (2005). Instructional Design (3rd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Last updated on 02 May 2017 .