Writing Effective Learning Objectives

What are learning objectives?

Learning objectives are statements that specify what students will know or be able to do as a result of a learning activity. Objectives are usually expressed as knowledge, skills, or attitudes. Learning objectives should deal with the gap between an existing condition and a desired condition – what the learner needs to know or have the ability to do that they do not presently know or have the ability to do. Learning objectives represent the solution to an identified need or issue. In the case of a hybrid course, the learning objectives should point the student towards the knowledge and skills needed to move beyond this course and be successful in the next course. Learning objectives provide direction in the planning of each learning activity.

They help to do the following:

  • Focus on the student’s behavior that is to be changed
  • Serve as guidelines for content, instruction, and evaluation
  • Identify specifically what should be learned
  • Convey to learners exactly what is to be accomplished

Why are clear learning objectives important?

Learning objectives specify what you want your students to learn, do or produce as a result of taking your course. Having clearly stated learning objectives does the following:

  • guides your choice of content, activities and assignments
  • allows you to communicate what is expected of students
  • provides the basis for assessment and grading

In short, clear goals and objectives are essential for high-quality course development.

What are some key questions that I should ask myself before writing learning objectives?

Before writing your outcome statements you should consider the following key questions about the learner’s needs.

  • Does the students’ level of awareness need to be raised?
  • Do they need to understand better the context in which a problem or specific issue exists?
  • Are there things students need to unlearn?
  • What are the most essential things they need to know or be able to do?
  • Do they need a strong rationale to buy into a viewpoint on a particular issue?
  • What specific skills or strategies do they need?
  • How important is the student’s level of confidence with what they are learning?
  • What are the obstacles they will face to using this knowledge or skill?
  • What are the most important things they need to be able to do once they complete the module/course?
  • These questions are useful for helping you plan learning activities and decide how to best present these activities to the students.

What is the ultimate test of a learning objective?

The ultimate test of a learning objective–at least in terms of its clarity and effectiveness–is whether the student’s attainment of the objective can be observed and measured. If not, the objective probably is unclear and ineffective.

How do you fix an unclear objective?

If you suspect a learning objective is unclear, or you are having a hard time writing a learning objective, ask yourself if the objective can be measured. Note the following examples:

Learning Objective 1: Students will understand the nine reasons for conducting a needs assessment.

Understanding in and of itself is not a measurable commodity. Changing the learning objective to something like the following makes it measurable:

Learning Objective 1: List the nine reasons for conducting a needs assessment.

This objective requires students to produce a list that can be measured for accuracy.

Learning Objective 2: Participants will develop an appreciation of cultural diversity in the workplace.

Again, developed appreciation is not measurable.

Learning Objective 2: Explain the benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace.

With clear and measurable learning objectives your students will have a better idea of what is expected of them.

What is the importance of action verbs?

Since the learner’s performance should be observable and measurable, you should choose an action verb for each objective statement which results in overt behavior that you can observe and measure. Action verbs are words such as the following:

(compile, create, plan, revise, analyze, design, select, utilize, apply, demonstrate, prepare, use, compute, discuss, explain, predict, assess, compare, rate, critique)

Certain verbs are unclear and subject to different interpretations in terms of what action they are specifying. Such verbs call for covert behavior which cannot be observed or measured. You should avoid the following types of verbs:

(know, become aware of, appreciate, learn, understand, become familiar with.)

Courtesy of: Mentoring Minds