Writing Effective Learning Objectives

Just as you must first determine outcomes when planning curriculum, when lesson planning it is important to first determine the objectives the students will meet. Objectives of a lesson will ensure you use valid assessment strategies and determine how you plan the remainder of the learning experience.  A learning objective should be able to easily answer the question of what a student will be able to do after the learning experience that they could not do before.

A well written learning objective can be easily observed, can be easily measured, and has 4 major components.  These four components follow an ABCD model, can be arranged in any order, and are as follows:

  1. Audience—the intended learner.  The audience can be broad or very specific. example:  students or Quantitative Genetics Students
  2. Behavior— is a verb that describes the knowledge or skill the intended learner will be able to demonstrate after the lesson.  This behavior should be both observable and measurable.  example:  understand, analyze, demonstrate  
  3. Condition—equipment, tools, or resources that the learner may use in order to complete the behavior.  example: 
  4. Degree—states the acceptable mastery for the objective.  This can be difficult to determine for some behaviors.  example: 100% accuracy or 9 out of 10 times

Once you have determined the behavior students will master, it is important to be sure you are using the right language to classify the behavior.  Bloom's Revised Taxonomy can help you classify the behaviors, and identify the level thinking that will be assessed.  The revised taxonomy can help you classify learning objectives based on the cognitive complexity of the behavior.  There are six dimensions which fall on a continuum of lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking skills.  The image below shows the six dimensions of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy, a short definition of each, and examples of verbs which can be associated with them.  The three dimensions on the bottom will test students' lower order thinking skills while the three dimensions on the top will test students' higher order thinking skills.

For an interactive model of how to use Bloom's Revised Taxonomy follow this link to a page by Iowa State University's Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching: http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/effective-teaching-practices/revised-blooms-taxonomy

For examples on rewriting learning objectives to follow the ABCD model, visit the Examples of Effective Learning Objectives article.