Creating Learning Objectives

Last week I discussed the differences between learning outcome and learning objectives. That set the stage for creating learning objectives, which takes considerable thought and practice.

I always preface my list of objectives with “Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:” This preface defines my target audience (students), provides a timeframe (completion of the course), and states that the following must be “successfully completed,” which is a measurement.

The preface may be changed depending on the length of learning, such as workshop, or training session, and the word “student” can be replaced with learner, trainee, or employee.

The next task is to find verbs that you can measure student performance against. The verbs from last week’s three learning objectives were “describe” and “demonstrate.” These two words have very flexible meanings. For example, “demonstrate” can refer to a written demonstration of understanding, or the demonstration can be a presentation, or a test. The verb “describe” is at a slightly deeper level.

A good place to find learning objective verbs is to refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy, cognitive domain. For example, at the simplest level of the cognitive domain is knowledge. Some verbs that describe obtaining knowledge are, identify, list, define, and name. The next stage of the cognitive domain is comprehension. Some of the verbs here could be describe, explain or provide an example of …   How far up the domain you go will depend upon the level of the course and the level of the learners. I would not expect first semester students to go beyond comprehension or application; however, I would expect fourth year students to be at the evaluation and creation levels.

Depending on the course and program, you may also want to explore verbs used in the affective domain and the psychomotor domain. Of course, the verbs in the three domains can be mixed together. For example, if I was teaching a graphics design course, my first semester students should be able to describe (cognitive), but also duplicate (psychomotor) a particular style.

So here is some homework for you for next week: Write a preface (or borrow mine), and then create list of verbs that you feel are at the learning level of your students. Finally, using a verb at the beginning of the sentence, write out what you would like the students to accomplish by the end of the course or workshop.

If you recall, I had only three learning objectives for the media course. Once you get started writing learning objectives, it’s rather difficult to stop. You’ll most likely have a long list in a short period of time. Next week we’ll look at how to take your list learning objectives and create three or four powerful ones.

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