Learning objectives help inform students about what they will learn and how they will be assessed. Objectives are meant to align with course expectations. Therefore, any assigned exercises should be guided by the course’s specific learning objectives. Everything in the course should work together to ensure students master the course objectives.
What Are Learning Objectives?
Learning objectives are not a list of topics. Well-written learning objectives should clearly describe and establish the course’s specific competencies and outcomes, thus enabling students to demonstrate their achieved mastery of the objective. The ideal learning objective should be:
- specific, measurable, and observable;
- student-centered; and
- actionable, using behavioral terms (e.g., identify, analyze, demonstrate).
When writing learning objectives, frame your objectives with the phrase, “At the conclusion of this course/module/lesson, students should be able to…” and then state the specific skill or task that students should be able to accomplish. For example: “At the conclusion of this module, students should be able to apply neuromarketing concepts to an innovative marketing campaign.”
Common Problems With Learning Objectives
Below are examples of inadequate learning objectives that have been revised to more clearly communicate course expectations.
|Original Objective||Issue||Improved Objective|
|Students will understand email marketing.||Not specific, measurable, or observable||Students will be able to identify current email marketing strategies in advertising case studies.|
|Introduce social media marketing theories.||Not student-centered||Students will apply social media marketing theories to a proposed advertising stratagem.|
|Students will develop and demonstrate proficiency in business plan creation.||Focused on task or means rather than an actionable skill or goal||Students will produce a business plan.|
When writing learning objectives, it is important to select an appropriate verb and to consider how the objectives can build upon and relate back to previous learning objectives. This can be accomplished using Bloom’s Taxonomy, a system that groups student behaviors according to their difficulty. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are six levels of learning: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create, with Remember designated as lowest and Create as highest. As a course progresses, objectives should provide students with deeper learning and a greater degree of comprehension and capacity for real-world application.
The chosen verb from the taxonomy should correspond to the appropriate level of application for the topic and assessment. For instance, a quiz may evaluate a student’s ability to remember, whereas a discussion post may evaluate a student’s ability to apply or analyze.
The following table contains definitions and illustrative examples for each of the six tiers of learning, from low to high:
|Tier||Bloom’s Definition||Example Learning Objective|
|Remember||Recall information.||Students should be able to identify common character tropes in Gothic literature.|
|Understand||Explain ideas or concepts.||Students should be able to explain the historical origins of Gothic literature.|
|Apply||Use information in new situations, to answer questions, or to solve problems.||Students should be able to respond to thematic and stylistic questions about novel passages.|
|Analyze||Dissect information to show relationships, causes, and connections.||Students should be able to compare and contrast the subgenres of Gothic literature.|
|Evaluate||Justify a stand or position.||Students should be able to support or defend an individual thesis about Gothic literature.|
|Create||Produce something new.||Students should be able to compose a Gothic short story using appropriate genre elements.|
Adams, N. E. (2015). Bloom’s taxonomy of cognitive learning objectives. Journal of the Medical Library Association: JMLA, 103(3), 152.
Faulconer, E. K. (2017). Increasing student interactions with learning objectives. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(5).
Naumes, M. J. (2013). Writing effective learning objectives. Case Research Journal, 33(1), 65-171.
Utica College. (n.d.). Bloom’s taxonomy of measurable verbs.