Learning Outcomes and Measurable Objectives
Developing measure learning objectives for both course and module level alignments is perhaps the most difficult aspect of course design to achieve, but it is also the most important aspect of your course. Does everything in your course have a purpose? Does ALL of your content assess specific levels of mastery from lower to higher levels of learning? Can course assignments, activities, and assessments be aligned to meet the stated objectives for the module AND course? Consider the summative and formative assessments in your course and determine how they facilitate the learning necessary to meet your stated course objectives. When constructing learning objectives, reflect on the following statements;
- All learning objectives should be written from the learner’s perspective and promote a recognized framework to represent scholarly learning (e.g. Bloom’s Taxonomy, ABCD method, SMART, etc.).
- Course learning objectives should be measurable and provide appropriate context to the expected outcome to represent a specific level of learning (see Bloom’s Taxonomy). Any objectives with “understand” would not be acceptable.
- Module/Unit level learning objectives should be measurable and provide appropriate context to the expected outcome. Any objectives with “understand” is not acceptable.
- Alignment between course and module level learning objectives should be identified and appropriate for levels of learning mastery.
Articulate Your Learning Objectives
When writing or revising learning objectives it is important to define observable behaviors that can be measured and that accurately reflect expectations based on the instruction and related assignments. Terms like “learning” and “understanding” are laudable instructional goals, but they are not observable or measurable because the interpretation is subjective when the spectrum from lower to higher levels of learning. You cannot measure learning or understanding; but you can measure how well a student can organize, label, explain, or create.
Before you decide on the content to cover in your course, endow your course with a strong internal structure conducive to student learning. Alignment among three main course components ensures an internally consistent structure. Alignment is achieved when the:
Objectives articulate the knowledge and skills you want students to acquire by the end of the course
Assessments allow the instructor to check the degree to which the students are meeting the learning objectives
Instructional Strategies are chosen to foster student learning towards meeting the objectives
When these components are not aligned, students might rightfully complain that the test did not have anything to do with what was covered in class, or instructors might feel that even though students are earning a passing grade, they haven’t really mastered the material at the desired level.
Articulating your learning objectives at the appropriate grain can be challenging at first. Here are some resources to help:
List of action verbs (pdf) – a starting point for writing learning objectives
Bloom’s taxonomy – taxonomy created to categorize a continuum of educational objectives
Samples of learning objectives – from a variety of courses
Articulating Your Learning Objectives [Source: Carnegie Mellon University]
Learning Goals, Outcomes, and/or Objectives
In order to focus on higher order level of thinking while creating course content, Bloom's Taxonomy is used as the framework to assist you in designing goals, outcomes and objectives. This method provides the opportunity to create performance tasks, critical thinking questions, and assessments using six levels measurement (knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation) to achieve measurable student outcomes.
Using S.M.A.R.T., objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and target/time-bound.
Creating S.M.A.R.T. goals also helps you make attainable, specific and measurable goals.
Wayne State University - S.M.A.R.T. Objectives
Learning Outcomes and Objectives Resources
Learning Objectives Builder - This interactive online web portal by Arizona State University provides an easy way to write lesson objectives.
A Model of Learning Objectives - This interactive online object, created by Iowa State University, Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, provides a mouse-over interactive method uses colored blocks to see examples on how to choose correct learning objectives.