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Writing Quality Learning Objectives
Learning objectives (often called performance objectives or competencies) are brief, clear, specific statements of what learners will be able to perform at the conclusion of instructional activities. Learning objectives stem from course objectives; course objectives are broad statements reflecting general course goals and outcomes, while learning objectives are targeted statements about expected student performance. Generally, learning objectives are competency-based as they designate exactly what students need to do to demonstrate mastery of course material. With this in mind, learning objectives are always stated in terms of student outcomes. The purpose of learning objectives is to:
Guidelines for Writing Effective Learning Objectives:
Effective learning objectives highlight expected student behavior as well as the specific conditions and standards of performance.
Behavior - Write learning objectives in terms of an observable, behavioral outcome; essentially, learning objectives should provide a description of what the student will be able to do. When writing the objective in performance terminology, the selection of an effective action verb is of utmost importance. The use of a clear, targeted verb provides directions about the expectations of student performance at the completion of instructional activities. Because the verb provides the desired direction of emphasis, it is important to choose a verb that is focused and targets a level of performance appropriate for the course.
Student-Centered - All learning objectives should focus on the student. An effective learning objective will explain expectations for student behavior, performance, or understanding. To ensure that learning objectives are student-centered, a good objective should appropriately complete the statement "The student will..."
Conditions - Learning objectives should be specific and target one expectation or aspect of understanding and highlight the conditions under which the student is expected to perform the task. The conditions of the objective should communicate the situation, tools, references, or aids that will be provided for the student.
Standards - Each learning objective should be measurable and include the criteria for evaluating student performance. Generally, standards provide information to clarify to what extent a student must perform to be judged adequate; thus effective learning objectives indicate a degree of accuracy, a quantity of correct responses or some other type of measurable information. Standards serve the dual purpose of informing students of performance expectations and providing insight as to how achievement of these expectations will be measured. Since students will utilize the standards to guide their performance, be sure to use specific terminology that has limited interpretations and ensure that all students understand the same interpretation.
Tips for Improving Learning Objectives:
Using the Taxonomy of Educational Objectives to Write Learning Objectives:
Depending on the course goals, learning objectives may target a range of skills or cognitive processes. Bloom's (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives differentiates between three domains of learning: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.
Most courses in higher education focus on the cognitive domain, thus it is important to examine various levels of cognitive understanding. The cognitive domain is broken-down into six categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Generally, instructors will want to design learning objectives to target a range of levels of student understanding. The phrasing of learning objectives will help guide both instructional activities and assessment, thus instructors should carefully select the emphasis of learning and the relevant verb.
Avoid using verbs that are difficult to measure objectively. The following verbs are difficult to assess, thus should be used with caution:
If you utilize verbs like "know" or "understand", make sure that you state how "knowledge" or "understanding" will be demonstrated. Remember, a good learning objectives is one that can be assessed to determine students' mastery of course material.
|_____||Does the learning objective stem from a course goal or objective?|
|_____||Is the learning objective measurable?|
|_____||Does the learning objective target one specific aspect of expected performance?|
|_____||Is the learning objective student-centered?|
|_____||Does the learning objective utilize an effective, action verb that targets the desired level of performance?|
|_____||Do learning objectives measure a range of educational outcomes?|
|_____||Does the learning objective match instructional activities and assessments?|
|_____||Does the learning objective specify appropriate conditions for performance?|
|_____||Is the learning objective written in terms of observable, behavioral outcomes?|
- A Quick Guide to Writing Learning Objectives
- Guidelines for Writing Learning Objectives
- Writing Learning Objectives Using Bloom's Taxonomy
- Basic Guidelines (and Examples) for Writing Learning Objectives
- Writing Performance Objectives (San Mateo County Office of Education)
- A Clear Guide to Writing Objective Statements
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