Measurable Learning Objectives
Defining Course and Module Mastery
What are Measurable Learning Objectives?
As you determine your lesson objectives, remember they will be used to create assessments. The objectives must be stated in a clearly measurable way so they may be assessed. The objectives must provide the instructor a way to observe and determine if the student fulfills the objective.
Though it can be broken down into simple parts, the task of writing lesson objectives requires much thought and consideration. Once the desired outcomes are known, the objectives can be written by considering the following concerns and answering key questions:
- Performance – Answer: What do I want students to be able to do? (must be measurable, use action verbs)
- Condition – Answer: What are the important conditions or constraints under which I want them to perform? (can include tools)
- Criteria – Answer: How well must students perform for me to be satisfied?
- Learner – Answer: Who will be performing? (often left implied as ‘the student’)
BAD: Student will appreciate the structural components of an architectural design.
BETTER: Correctly using the basic vocabulary of architecture and architectural history (criteria), students (learner) identify, describe and compare (performance) the functional components of the structural design examples from this lesson (condition).
BAD: Students will understand the protagonist’s motives.
BETTER: After reading The King (condition), students (learner) critique the protagonist’s motives (performance), using 3 of 5 critical points discussed in class (criteria).
How do we gauge measurability?
There are many ways to determine whether an objective is measurable. It is essential for objectives to be clear. Your department may provide course objectives, but when you put them in your course, you can clarify them breaking them down into module or lesson objectives.
It is important to avoid language like, “the student will understand…” How can you tell whether or not a student understands the materials? Instead look to specific language as outlined by one or more taxonomies:
- Fink’s Significant Learning Taxonomy
- Krathwohl’s Affective Domain
- Bigg’s Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO)
What are course outcomes and lesson objectives?
Course outcomes describe what students should know or be able to do by the end of the course. (e.g. Explain a concept such as uniformitarianism.) Course outcomes shape desired lesson outcomes and help to focus activities and content. Be sure that your course outcomes relate to outcomes determined by your department or program.
Lesson objectives describe what students will do to obtain the desired lesson outcome within a course module. (e.g. Given a plain text citation list, students will accurately format a MS Word document according to provided journal guidelines.)
How can I use measurable objectives in my class?
Look to samples provided by your colleagues. Try out the “Objective Builder” created by the University of Central Florida. It is based mainly on Bloom’s and Revised Bloom’s taxonomy. This tool allows you to step through the process of identifying the condition (what the ending artifact will be, a thesis statement, for example), the audience (usually the student), the behavior (this is where you select a domain, a level and a verb) and the degree (what you deem proficient, a number of words, for example) for writing good, measurable objectives.
Next, view a Teaching Tip PDF from 2012 on writing lesson objectives.
Bloom, B. S. (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New York; Toronto: Longmans, Green.
Codding, R. S., Skowron, J., & Pace, G. M. (2005). Back to basics: training teachers to interpret curriculum-based measurement data and create observable and measurable objectives. Behavioral Interventions, 20(3), 165-176.
Lachlan-Haché, L. (2015). The Art and Science of Student Learning Objectives: A Research Synthesis. American Institutes for Research.
Shank, P. (2005). Writing Learning Objectives That Help You Teach and Students Learn (Part 1). Online Classroom, 4-7.
Talley, K., & Frazier, M. (2016). Objectives Hard at Work: Daily Learning Objectives as a Feedback System. Journal Of Engineering Technology, 33(1), 44-52.
UAF Instructional Designers
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