Observe & Consider
Perspectives on Learning Objectives
As we discussed in the previous section, well articulated learning objectives are a foundation for any blended learning design process because they establish what you want your students to know or do upon completion of your course. As we look to further explore the learning objectives, it is worth considering an objectives significance from various perspectives. Well crafted learning objectives allow all stakeholders in the course to share a common understanding of what the course is about.
Instructors & Course Designers
For instructors and course designers, the value of a learning objective is perhaps most obvious. In short, learning objectives enable the blended learning design process to happen. Learning objectives provide road map for a course and help align content, assessments and activities to round out the learning experience.
Well developed learning objectives can also help students to understand better their own learning process. When the goals are explicit, students can more purposefully approach readings, activities, and assignments and more easily make connections that deepen the learning experience. Furthermore, students may be able to articulate skills more clearly and link their learning experiences to a real-world context.
Institutions, Departments and Programs
Though our primary focus remains at the course level, learning objectives can have significance beyond the course level. In thinking about how your course objectives take shape, it may be worth considering how programs, departments, and institutions might use learning objectives to help organize more holistic learning pathways for students. For example, our institution has the UW Essential Learning Outcomes help communicate to prospective students how a UW education will prepare them for life after graduation. At the same time, this communicates to prospective employers what skills and abilities a UW graduate will bring to an organization.
Departments and programs can also outline learning objectives that align with those institutional objectives but speak more specifically to how a program of study will prepare a student for a specific discipline.
Observe & Consider
Learning Objectives and Course Structure
Learning objectives might seem straightforward, but there are actually quite a number of considerations to make to ensure that an objective is complete and works to align with the various elements of a blended course. The diagram below outlines how objectives work at various levels of a course to build a the course structure and to help define the various assignments, activities, and assessments.
Anatomy of an Objective
A learning objective is a brief statement with several important characteristics:
- contains a verb that aligns with the designed learner action
- contains object that summarizes the desired knowledge or skill
- is actionable – can be put into practice or though activity
- is measurable or observable– can be assessed to determine whether the objective was met
While each characteristic above is an important component of a complete learning objective, it is worth spending a moment looking at the way in which the verb can link an objective to one of the six cognitive domains within Bloom’s Taxonomy.
|Learning Objective Verbs at Each Bloom Taxonomy Level
|arrange, define, describe, duplicate, identify, label, list, match, memorize, name, order, outline, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, select, state
|classify, convert, defend, discuss, distinguish, estimate, explain, express, extend, generalize, give example(s), identify, indicate, infer, locate, paraphrase, predict, recognize, rewrite, report, restate, review, select, summarize, translate
|apply, change, choose, compute, demonstrate, discover, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, manipulate, modify, operate, practice, predict, prepare, produce, relate schedule, show, sketch, solve, use write
|analyze, appraise, breakdown, calculate, categorize, classify, compare, contrast, criticize, derive, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, identify, illustrate, infer, interpret, model, outline, point out, question, relate, select, separate, subdivide, test
|arrange, assemble, categorize, collect, combine, comply, compose, construct, create, design, develop, devise, explain, formulate, generate, plan, prepare, propose, rearrange, reconstruct, relate, reorganize, revise, rewrite, set up, summarize, synthesize, tell, write
|appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, conclude, contrast, defend, describe, discriminate, estimate, evaluate, explain, judge, justify, interpret, relate, predict, rate, select, summarize, support, value
Now that we’ve established the component parts of a well-written objective, let’s look review a few examples. Consider the table below and note the difference between the strong and weak objectives. As you review the chart, notice how the strong objectives include each of the essential components of an objective (listed above). At the same time, note how the weak objectives contain a non-descript verb and imprecise object.
|Know how to use t-tests and chi-square tests in data analysis
|Describe the assumptions underlying t-tests and chi-square tests and use these tests to statistically compare two samples
|Understand how to measure the association between a given risk factor and a disease
|Define and calculate measures of association between a given risk factor and a disease.
|Basic strategies for assessing environmental health hazards
|List, describe, and compare the advantages and disadvantages of the basic strategies for assessing environmental health hazards
|Know about Medicare and Medicaid
|Compare and contrast Medicare and Medicaid with respect to political history, governmental roles, client eligibility, financing, benefits, and cost-sharing
- Writing Good Learning Objectives from I-Tech
- A Model of Learning Objectives – Interactive tool based on A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives by Rex Heer, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Iowa State University.
Practice & Apply
Reflect on Learning Objectives and Your Course
- Does your program or department have well defined learning objectives or outcomes for students?
- If so, how do those objectives impact your course design, activities, and assessments?
- If you have learning objectives developed for your course, are they written in a way that is measurable and actionable?