Writing Course Goals and Learning Objectives.

Whether developing a program, course, or module comprised of a series of class sessions, well-articulated course goals and learning objectives provide a roadmap through the course content. As you design a course, course goals guide the selection of material and the learning objectives impact the methods used to assess student learning.

Course goals are broad, general statements of what you want your students to learn. These are larger, overarching descriptions of outcomes for which verbs like “appreciate” and “understand” are appropriate. A sample course goal might be “Students will understand the effect of global warming”.

Learning objectives, or behavioral objectives, are written from a student’s point of view and describe what the student will be able to do as a result of taking the course. An example would be: “Explain the adverse effects of DDT on humans.” An effective learning objective will explain expectations for student performance. Learning objectives need to be specific and measurable both for the teacher and the student so that a level of competence can be determined and if applicable, a grade applied to the product of student learning.

To ensure that learning objectives are student-centered, the objectives should appropriately complete the statement “The student will…”.  The choice of an effective action verb is of utmost importance. The level of knowledge or skill desired as described in Bloom’s taxonomy will inform the choice of verb. For example, “identify” is a low level of understanding, while “synthesize and analyze” represent a deeper level of learning.

Note that learning objectives apply to the course as a whole, while class objectives are smaller, more immediate objectives for each individual course meeting.

For additional resources on developing goals and objectives, check the Carnegie Mellon Elberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation.