An objective is defined as “a description of a performance you want learners to be able to exhibit before you consider them competent.” (Mager, 1984). It gives your learners a target and way of knowing when they’ve ‘hit’ it.
In addition to course providing high level course objectives, instructors can provide lower level objectives for individual course modules/units. These objectives are specific to outcomes achieved upon completion of unit learning activities and assessments.
If you want to learn more about objectives, we highly recommend Preparing Instructional Objectives by Robert F. Mager available through the CSS library. It reads much like a choose your own adventure book and allows you to ‘practice’ as you read.
First off it needs to be measurable and observable. That means that it must be possible to assess whether or not a student has met the objective.
When writing objectives, there are two types of verbs that can be used.
Those that are observable and measurable and those that aren’t. Those that aren’t are fuzzy and are unfortunately the most used in objectives. However, fuzzy verbs (e.g. know, understand, appreciate, comprehend, remember) don’t tell you anything about the student behavior and can’t be assessed. Don’t fall into that trap!
Better verbs to use include identify, discuss write, draw, and list. See example below:
Example of fuzzy objective: “Become familiar with the literature on community nursing provided in the unit readings.”
Example of a measurable objective: “Synthesize the literature on community nursing provided in the unit readings.”
The best approach to writing your objective and choosing your action verb is to look at a chart based on Bloom’s Taxonomy, such as this PDF chart, “Verbs to Use in Creating Educational Objectives”.
Backwards Design is an approach to curriculum or course design where you start by identifying the goals or objectives, and then develop the content and assessments based on these established outcomes.
Writing your learning objectives for each day and/or unit of study. These should be ‘smaller’ than your course outcomes, but they should still clearly link together.
When planning how you will collect this evidence, consider a wide range of assessment methods (see “Authentic Assessments”) and look back the verbs you used in your objectives to ensure that your assessments directly align with your learning goals. For example, if one of your objectives is for student to learn how to apply a project management skill, give them case scenario where they have to create a real-world object/artifact applying that skill and provide an explanation of why and how they created that object.
Now that you’ve created your objectives and decided on the appropriate assessment, you are ready to start planning how you’re going to teach. You can now move to designing your instructional strategies and students’ learning activities.
Devise active and collaborative exercises that encourage students to grapple with new concepts in order to “own” them. You want to foster an ability to apply the content, not rote memorization.