By formulating learning objectives you can make clear what you want students to achieve in your education. You can formulate learning objectives on different levels. You can use task objectives, course objectives and final qualifications. A learning objective never stands on its own. For example, you can derive the course goals from the final qualifications of the program. Similarly, you want task objectives to match the course goals.
The functions of learning objectives:
- They are the basis of the design and execution of education and assessment.
- They show students what they are expected to learn during the course. They also indicate how students will be assessed and judged.
- They provide an impression (to colleagues and external institutions) about the education and minimum achieved level of students who have passed.
Learning objectives describe an action
The core of a learning objective is the verb described in it. It is best to use a verb that describes a distinguishable action. By describing an action in a learning objective you can explain how the student should master the content of the course and what will be assessed.
If you want to formulate learning objectives you can use one of the following models:
- You can/will perform action A with content X in context Y on level Z.
- In context Y you will perform action A with content X on level Z.
By using the second-person point of view, you can describe the learning objective from the student’s perspective. This way students can better understand what is expected of them.
Content, context and level of a learning objective
In addition to the action a learning objective contains three other components:
- Content: What is the action about? How does the student perform the action?
- Context: In what situation is the student acting?
- Level: How difficult is it? What quality demands are made for the action?
Bloom’s Taxonomy is an instrument that helps you to formulate learning goals and find the right words to describe them. You can use it to refine what you expect from students. The actions that belong to the Bloom category, are also the actions that you would focus the assessment on.
Below, you see a linear representation of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Sometimes, you also come across this taxonomy shaped as a pyramid. Here the conscious decision was made to show the categories next to each other. The pyramid can be misleading because it gives the impression that there is a certain hierarchy or that you need to have a linear progression through the categories from below, going upwards.