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Learning Objectives

Page history last edited by Anne McKinney 13 years, 9 months ago



Communicating Projected Outcomes & Expectations

The purpose of instructional objectives and performance outcomes is to define the type of learning that will occur at the conclusion of instruction and how learning will be assessed. In other words, what do you want your students to know or be able to do as a result of taking your course?


Your Learning Objectives will be your attempt to answer that question. Most often objectives are given as a list of actions that students should successfully be able to accomplish. (This will make it easier for you to assess how well they have accomplished the objectives--you'll have something tangible to grade.) Of course, the more clearly you write your objectives, the easier it will be for your students to understand what they need to do to succeed in your class, as well as help you determine whether the objectives have been achieved.


Learning objectives are often included in the course syllabus and/or course description so students can learn early into the semester what they can hope to accomplish by taking the course. Many instructors also include learning objectives for specific assignments. They work well in combination with rubrics (we'll discuss this in greater detail in Module 6).


For the purposes of this Module, thinking of objectives for your entire course can help you develop a plan of action for the way you want to teach your course. After all, if you have a clear idea of the final destination, it's easier to decide how to get there.



Let's say you are teaching an Introduction to Information Science course. In your course description, you might include a statement and bulleted points that explain the following:


As a result of taking this course, you should be able to --

  • communicate a solid understanding of theoretical information science knowledge
  • analyze problems in information science and offer solutions
  • perform hands-on tasks in informational studies


Of course, a real set of objectives will be more detailed and specific, but this should give you a general idea of the theory. If you would like to see more examples -- albeit unspecific to library and information science, Dr. Kristine Webb has compiled a guide with demonstrative examples of clear learning objectives: Helpful Resources for Writing Measurable Learning Outcomes (University of North Florida).



Exercising Your Knowledge

Now it's your turn to practice writing your own objectives and thinking about instructional objectives in the context of a course! Think carefully about what you want students to gain by the semester's end in a course that you teach, have taught, or would like to teach. Ask yourself what is really important for your students to learn, to know, or to be able to do. Come up with three to five learning objectives for the course.


If you had to pick just one of these learning goals or outcomes as the one thing that students would retain from the course after leaving it, what would it be? Thinking about that one goal, could you honestly say that you spent the most amount of time in the course teaching to that goal?



Avoid verbs such as understand, know, etc. in terms of what you want students to accomplish. Use words that are exact and clear on the expectations, such as demonstrate, state, perform, etc.


When you have created a list of learning objectives, post them in the WISE discussion forum Learning Objectives. Include in your initial post:


  • The course title
  • Your 3-5 course objectives
  • The most important one
  • Any comments or questions about how the course follows the objectives or how this might be improved.


After posting your learning objectives, offer constructive advice on at least two other learning objectives that have been posted in this forum for credit toward the Certificate of Completion.


Additional Resource

Quality Matters: Standard II: Learning Objectives. (2007). Retrieved from South Dakota State University:





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