How to Write Learning Objectives
UW Distance Learning
courses have several important features in common: clear learning objectives;
a comprehensive introduction to the course; materials and resources that
provide the course content; a series of individual lessons, each containing
an assignment or exercise; and at least one final assessment.
There are three essential
steps in the preliminary course development process that lead to creation
of these features: determining learning objectives for the course, choosing
the course materials, and dividing the course content into lessons. This
section focuses on learning objectives.
One of the first things
a person taking a course wants to know is "What am I going to learn
in this course?" which is not the same as "What will this course
cover?" Learning objectives are brief descriptions of specific things
a learner completing the course will know or be able to do. They should
be succinctly expressed using clear action verbs. A narrative statement
of the scope of the course or the principal themes to be treated is still
appropriate, but it is not a substitute for a clear list of learning objectives.
Think about what a
successful student in your course should be able to do:
- What concepts should
they be using?
- What kinds of analysis
should they be able to perform?
- What kind of writing
should they be able to do?
- What types of problems
should they be solving?
these things for learners is the first vital step to creating an educational
experience that will be meaningful, and will motivate them to complete
the course. Begin by brainstorming a list of things you wish learners
to know or be able to do. You will subsequently design measures for determining
whether or not learners have accomplished these objectives (assessments),
so thinks in terms of knowledge and skills that can be directly observed
and measured. For example, Bill
Mannone distinguishes between OVERT vs. COVERT descriptions:
your performance must be observable or OVERT. Can you see a student determine?
Can you see a student understand? These performances are called COVERT
or hidden. Covert refers to performance that cannot be observed directly.
There is an easy way to handle these in a performance statement. First
you identify the covert skill (i.e., determine, select, understand), and
add a word or two to that performance to tell your student what directly
visible behavior is an acceptable indicator of the performance."
Ohm's Law in writing
the bad circuit
identify the bad circuit
into groups ...
Once you have a general
idea of what you wish learners to know and be able to do, the next step
is drafting the text that will clearly and specifically tell them what
they can expect to learn. Experience indicates that the text of effective
instructional objectives includes three parts. These parts are best described
in the work of training and human performance expert Robert Mager:
of a performance - what the learner is to be able to do. Example:
be able to write a news article. The performance must be observable.
Question to ask when writing this part: What do I want students to be
able to do?
- important conditions under which the performance is expected to
occur Examples: Given a list of... (sort into stacks); when provided
with standard tools... (construct a table); without using references...
(know the state capitols) Questions to ask when writing this part: What
are the important conditions or constraints under which I want them
to perform? What the learner will be provided? What will the learner
be denied? Are there special conditions which occur on the job or when
- criterion or
standard - (the quality or level of performance that will be considered
acceptable) . Examples: include measures of speed (in less than
30 minutes...), direction (according to manufacturers specifications...),
accuracy (without error...) , quality (all cuts must be smooth to the
touch). Question to ask when writing this part: How well must learners
perform for me to be satisfied they've accomplished the objective?
Development tutorial developed by Leslie Owen Wilson, School
of Education, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
Behavioral Objectives, tutorial prepared by Teaching and Learning
Center, Elementary General Music.
to Write Behavioral Objectives, Dr. Bob Kizlik, Adprima tutorial.
Includes examples of objectives written for English language arts, mathematics,
science, and social studies.
- Learning Skills
Taxonomy. Samples of verbs to use that capture various levels
and kinds of skills.
In addition to indicating
to learners what they will know and be able to do at the successful completion
of a course, well-crafted learning objectives are also the touchstones
guiding the rest of the course development process. The choice of course
materials, assignments or activities, and assessments should all reflect
the learning objectives.
The question to consider
when building a course from learning objectives is: How does this element
of the course relate back to one or more of the learning objectives? For
example, learners should not be asked to read or review material that
is not relevant to one of the objectives. Nor should they be assessed
on skills or knowledge which is not specifically outlined as important
in one or more of the objectives.
Mager, Robert F. (1997).
Preparing Instructional Objectives, Third Edition, Atlanta, Georgia:
Center for Effective Performance, Inc.