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Determining Instructional Goals and Learning Objectives

Instructional Goals

A clear statement of what your instructional goals are for this course will help determine the pathway to develop the course. Stating goals in term of student performance will be the start to developing specific student learning objectives/outcomes and aligning assessment.
Goal statements are broad and will later be broken into smaller steps in order to write student learning objectives/outcomes. (The literature uses the terms objectives and outcomes in different ways, often interchangeably. In some cases objectives are an intermediate step between goals and outcomes, often specified at an institutional, college or department level. Here we will use the term objectives for consistency and simplicity sake).

Guiding Question

“What do I want my students to know and be able to do when they have completed my course?”
Write 3 or 4 broad learning goals for your course.

  • Think of these in terms of what the student will be able to do, NOT what the teacher will do
  • At this point the goals are broad

 Example : Students will design a garden.

Determining Student Learning Objectives

Now break down each goal into smaller steps. Each step should be concrete and measurable: These are your student learning objectives.

Guiding Question

“How can I break down my goals into realistic, pragmatic, measurable and achievable student learning objectives?”
Below are two examples of objectives for the goal listed above. There will typically be two or more objectives per broad goal.
Example 1: Given a site for a garden, students will be able to talk to stakeholders about their needs, and select a garden theme for the proposed garden.
Example 2: Based on the theme selected, students will be able to develop a design plan for a garden that is appropriate to the location and climatic conditions.

To be useful objectives:

  • Should contain verbs that describe an observable action or other demonstration of student learning
  • These verbs should be clear (E.g., identify, construct, solve) and not fuzzy or open to many interpretations (E.g. understand, comprehend, appreciate). If broader verbs are used, providing an assessment rubric will help clarify the objective both to the learner and instructor.
  • Should specify any important condition under which the action or demonstration is to occur
  • Can contain the criteria of acceptable performance or the standard that the learner must meet
  • Should identify knowledge, skills or attitude to be learned. This knowledge, skills or attitude can be cognitive, behavioral, psychomotor or affective.

Examine goals in using Bloom’s Taxonomy to make sure you are setting objectives at the level appropriate for your learning context.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

  •  Knowledge – Recall previously learned information
  • Comprehension – Demonstrate an understanding of the meaning or purpose of previously learned information
  • Application – Use previously learned information in novel and concrete situations
  • Analysis – Examine the underlying components of learned information and gain an understanding of their organizational structure – This level also includes making inferences and using the information to support broader generalizations
  • Synthesis – Integrate previously learned information and its components into new concepts
  • Evaluation – Use definite criteria (either provided or self-created) to judge the value of other material and information

 Based on: Bloom, B. S., Englehart, M. B., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the classification of educational goals – Handbook I: Cognitive Domain. New York: McKay.

Guiding Question

“Which level/s of Bloom’s Taxonomy does this objective address? Is this a fit with my learning context?”
You can start a course development template in which each goal can be broken into specific objectives and outcome levels. Later course content and assessments can be added.

Benefits of Using Objectives

Well written objectives can:

  • Help you systematically meet your learning goals by helping determine activities and methods to implement instruction and assess success
  • Provide you and your students with a road map of desired learning
  • Help your students become better learners by showing them what they need to learn and how to self-assess if they are learning
  • Improve instruction because you can identify problems that students have with specific objectives in the course.

Planning Your Course