A Legacy of W.K. Kellogg

Write/Rewrite Course Learning Objectives

What are Learning Objectives?

Learning objectives are statements that communicate to students and other stakeholders what students are expected to learn from the course or lesson. Learning objectives provide guidance for you, the instructor, for observing, measuring, and describing students' mastery of course content. Clear learning objectives contribute to transparency and fairness in a course.

Most learning objectives begin with the phrase "students will…" followed by an action verb. It is not good enough to simply say "students will know X, Y, and Z." The verb must lend itself to student behavior that is both observable and quantifiable so that students actively demonstrate their mastery of the content. Note that learning objectives are focused on what students will learn or do, not on what the instructor will teach.

You may need to write or revise course learning objectives based on your investigation of existing course assets.

How to write Learning Objectives[1][2]

The ABCD method is an effective way to create Learning Objectives: Consider Audience, Behavior, Conditions, and Degree.

Audience (Who?)

Who is your specific audience? Who are the students taking your course, and why are they taking it? For example, students in an upper division course will likely be more knowledgeable and experienced than students in a 101 course. But this is not always the case, as sometimes 300-level courses have freshmen, and 101 courses have seniors who are about to graduate. Formulate your learning objective to be appropriate both to the level of the course and with acknowledgement of the students who are likely to take it.

Behavior (What?)

What observable and measurable behavior is desired? Learning objectives are about observable, demonstrable behavior, not about what students are thinking. Students can demonstrate knowledge in many ways; your learning objectives should specify what they are to do. The Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs Rubric is a useful resource for articulating learning objectives.

Condition (How?)

How will the learning take place? In other words, what resources will students have in order to demonstrate their knowledge? How will you support them in learning what they need to learn?

Degree (How Much?)

What is the non-debatable measure of success? "Degree" is similar to "behavior" but specifies a time in which or a level to which the behavior is demonstrate. Specifying "degree" can help you decide if you need to change something about the way you support students in reaching the learning objective. If only 50% of the students can do the behavior, maybe the "condition" needs to change so that students have more support. Just a note – "100%, every time" is probably not a reasonable degree to aim for in non-life-threatening situations.

ABCD Method Example

Audience: An instructor at Cal Poly Pomona

Behavior: Will be able to begin moving their course online,

Condition: Given the Course Design Academy Quick Start Guide,

Degree: Within 24 hours.