One of the lessons of Steven Covey in his book “Seven habits of Highly Effective People” is ‘begin with the end in mind’. The same goes for designing education: first decide on where you want to end (= learning objectives), then you think about the way how to get there (= content and teaching methods).
The ‘end’ of a course is described in the learning objectives. With these learning objectives you state what the student should know and be able to do after finishing the course, what the student didn’t know or couldn’t do previously. As such, the learning objectives give the student information about what is expected of him. Learning objectives also help you as a teacher, as it makes you aware what you are trying to accomplish with this course. As such, it will help you in choosing the right content, materials and instruction methods.
A good learning objective consists of four parts:
1. behavior of the student
The behavior states what you expect the student to be able to do after this course. This means that you should always use a verb in a learning objective, as a learning objective is about action.
You should state the content of each learning objective, so with what part of the subject the student should be able to do something. Make this description as concrete as possible.
You should also indicate in which conditions the student should be able to perform; e.g. is it analyzing a complex practical problem or a simple case study?
Finally you should indicate what the minimum requirement is the student should meet.
At the end of this course, the student can use two different theories on motivation to analyze a simple practical problem.
Level of competence
Learning objectives can indicate different levels of competence. Bloom (1979) has designed a taxonomy to indicate six levels of increasing cognitive ability:
Each higher level of ability incorporates all the lower levels, e.g. in order to be able to synthesize, the student must know the relevant theories, comprehend them, be able to apply those and be able to make an analysis using these theories.
When thinking about learning objectives, it is important to make clear what level of comprehension you want from students. At a university, most learning objectives will probably start at level 4.
Some do’s and don’ts for describing learning objectives:
* only state the required end result, not the learning activity
* give only one level (= the highest level) of competence
* positive formulation
* not necessary to include a detailed description of the subject content in the objective
SMART learning objectives
Learning objectives can be smart: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound. the UTQ demands concrete and measurable learning objectives. by the use of active verbs it is clear to everyone how the student can show that the objectives are achieved.
after the meeting / course the student can / is able to: explain the theory (understanding), describe the elements of (knowing), apply the tools (application), …..
Learning objectives can indicate different levels of competence. Bloom (1979) has designed a taxonomy to indicate six levels of increasing cognitive ability. Each level has some preferable verbs:
(Source: http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/edref/bloom.htm )
arrange, define, describe, duplicate, identify, label, list, match, memorize, name, order, outline, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, select, state
remembering previously learned information
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
grasping the meaning of information
apply, change, choose, compute, demonstrate, discover, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, manipulate, modify, operate, practice, predict, prepare, produce, relate schedule, show, sketch, solve, use write
applying knowledge to actual situations
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
breaking down objects or ideas into simpler parts and seeing how the parts relate and are organized
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
rearranging component ideas into a new whole
appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, conclude, contrast, defend, describe, discriminate, estimate, evaluate, explain, judge, justify, interpret, relate, predict, rate, select, summarize, support, value
making judgments based on internal evidence or external criteria
Each learning objective of a meeting should contribute to the learning objectives of the course. the learning objectives of the course should contribute to the competencies of the degree program.
Example: learning objective:
At the end of the course the student is able to apply basic statistic calculations to show the correlation between two variables.