What are you hoping your students will achieve? How will you know whether or not they have obtained your objectives? How can you articulate effective learning outcomes and objectives and why should you? Finding answers to these questions will help you build a solid foundation for your course.
Course-level learning objectives (or outcomes) shape the module-level learning objectives. The module-learning objectives shape the lesson’s learning materials, activities, and assessments.
As you determine your lesson objectives, remember they will be used to directly inform learning activities and 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’)
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:
Good Learning Objectives
Effective learning objectives should:
- be student-centered.
- use active wording.
- be measurable.
- specifically relate to learning and overall goals of the course.
- suit the level of the course based on learning taxonomy paradigm.
Poor – 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).
Poor – 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).
Bloom, B. S. (1956) Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, cognitive domain. New York; Toronto: Longmans, Green.
2009). Writing and Using Learning Outcomes: A Practical Guide. Cork, Ireland: Quality Promotion Unit.(
National Institute for Learning Outcomes and Assessment. (2016, May). Higher Education Quality: Why Documenting Learning Matters. A Policy Statement from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, Author.
Starr, C. W., Manaris, B., & Stalvey, R. H. (2008). Bloom’s taxonomy revisited: specifying assessable learning objectives in computer science. ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 40(1), 261-265.