How to Write Learning Objectives, Part 2

I hope you’ve had a chance to write down a number of learning objectives since you read my last week’s post. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a guide you should have easily compile more learning objectives than you need.

Generally, a fourteen-week college or university course should have three or four learning objectives.  These objectives should be broad enough to cover all the topics in the course, including assignments and student presentations. You may have created a list of a dozen or so objectives, but that is too many for the typical. I’m sure there are many good ideas in your list and this post will help you pull out the gems to create three or four powerful, measurable learning objectives.

Take a look at your list and underline or circle the critical elements of the course. Do these elements apply to all or most of the assignments, lectures, readings, and class activities? The purpose of this exercise is to clearly identify the elements that focus on the most important elements of the course.

Look for repeated themes. Try to find broad terms to describe them as a whole as opposed to individual elements. Look for themes that are specific. Can you expand them so they encompass more than just one element of the course?

Now take a look at the verbs you listed with the help of Bloom’s taxonomy. Make sure that the verbs are appropriate for the learning level of the students.  The one rule you must remember for the verbs is that you can only use one per learning objective.

For example, “Understand the terms and apply them to the topic” is asking the learner to accomplish two distinct actions at two distinct learning levels.

Keep broadening or narrowing your elements until you have a list that is specific to the course, but not specific to any assignment, lesson plan or readings. Keep at it until you have only three or four. If you have a list of eight, for example, then you have a list that is better suited to a marking rubric.

It may help to start with your preface, such as “ Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to …”

Always think of the end goals for the entire course, not just a specific lesson or topic. It may help to review the assignments and ask yourself what you expect the learner to gain from each. Do the same for your lectures. Do you want them to remember a list of historical dates or do you want them to know the motives behind the historical event? If you need them to under the motives, how deeply to you want them to analyze the material?

In fact, you could take the last paragraph and create learning objectives for an entire history course.

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • List important dates and events in Canadian history from 1757 to 1867
  • Describe the circumstance that lead to the major military actions during period
  • Demonstrate their understanding of politics that lead to Confederation
  • Describe the role of the First Nations in the formation of Canada

I know some professor that actually create the learning objectives first and then begin writing their course outlines around them.

Whether you start with the learning objectives or write them after you’ve created the course, it’s important to remember that you will be marking assignments based on the learning objectives, so the objectives must be measurable.

The objectives will also help guide you with creating materials at the correct level of learning. Finally, you should encourage your learners to periodically review the learning objective so they can be confident that they are meeting the expectations of the course.

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