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Identifying Desired Measurable Learning Objectives

In your previous step, you developed or modified your program goals. Although each of these statements defines what we want our students to attain, they arenít usually specific enough to be measurable. When you write learning objectives you are describing the specific knowledge, skills, or attitudes that students should have when they complete your program. Objectives should be measurable so you can produce evidence that the graduates of your program are meeting the intended goals. Objectives can specify student actions, expected perceptions of faculty, students, or employers, or expected student performance on assignments.

Each program goal developed in the previous step should be associated with one or more program objectives. The number of objectives per goal is determined by the faculty. Because program goals are typically phrased in general terms, they can sometimes be met in a variety of ways. Goals that may be met in a variety of ways will have multiple objectives.

Faculty may choose to identify program objectives concurrently with or subsequent to identification of program goals. Some programs will focus on more general goals before delving into specific expectations for students in a program. Other programs will begin by identifying how students demonstrate their skills and knowledge, and later cluster these objectives under a few, more general goals.

There are three different types of learning objectives - knowledge, skills, and attitudes - and the statements written for each directly relate to the goals you have set.

When writing knowledge objectives, you are trying to define the main concepts (e.g., theoretical principles) that students know when they graduate.

When writing skill objectives, you are trying to describe the larger skills (e.g., problem solving) that students will be able to do when they graduate.

Finally, attitudinal objectives usually describe beliefs about the nature of the field or perceptions about interdisciplinary connections (e.g., ethics) that you want students to attain before they graduate.

When writing learning objectives, it helps to think in terms of the level of knowledge, skill or attitude you expect your graduates to attain. Bloom (1956) developed a taxonomy of learning objectives that is useful for developing learning objectives. Using a verb to describe the student actions makes the statement measurable and helps you later define the type of assessments needed to show the extent to which the objectives were achieved. Sample Verbs for Learning Objectives (pdf) provides a list of verbs associated with each level.

See examples of learning objectives below. See also Program Assessment: Options for Getting Started (pdf) for suggestions about how to approach the development of learning objectives at the program level.

Examples of Goals and Learning Objectives

Communications goal

Graduates will demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of groups in a global society and their relationship to the field of communications.

  • Learning objective 1: Students will be able to analyze a film for its inclusion or exclusion of certain diverse groups.
  • Learning objective 2: Students will be able to write an unbiased news article about a two-sided issue.
Comparative literature goal

Graduates will obtain a global awareness through a wide range of international literary and language experiences that are critical in todayís world.

  • Learning objective 1: Students will be able to analyze a text set outside of the United States and infer the social and economic conditions based on the authorís description.
  • Learning objective 2: Students will be able to compare a non-U.S. publication with a U.S. publication and show the similarities and differences between the two settings.
Engineering goal

Graduates will have the ability to design and conduct experiments as well as analyze and interpret data.

  • Learning objective 1: Students will be able to choose the appropriate method or procedure when faced with an engineering related problem.
  • Learning objective 2: Students will be able to create a hypothesis and determine the methods necessary to test their hypothesis.
Physical therapy assistant goal

Graduates will be prepared to understand and implement the interventions that are described by a physical therapist.

  • Learning objective 1: Students will be able to distinguish between different types of aerobic conditioning exercises.
  • Learning objective 2: Students will be able to correctly measure standard vital signs.
Physics goal

Graduates will acquire the theoretical and experimental background for work in areas such as acoustics, astrophysics, biophysics, chemical physics, computer science, mathematical physics, and engineering.

  • Learning objective 1: Students will be able to evaluate an article from a discipline-specific text and write a critique using theoretical principles.
  • Learning objective 2: Students will be able to employ the correct procedure for a given experiment.
Psychology goal

Graduates will understand and generate applications of psychology to individual, social, and organizational issues.

  • Learning objective 1: Students will be able to distinguish between several different psychological issues.
  • Learning objective 2: Students will be able to recommend a course of treatment for an individual based on the issues presented.

Other examples of department and program learning objectives