Module 3: Learning Objectives

 

Learning Objectives

In this module, you’ll explore best practices for designing useful learning objectives. Module developer Stephanie Chasteen will make the case for learning objectives, then walk through the process of crafting learning objectives that can inform instruction. Along the way, you’ll hear faculty and student perspectives on learning objectives. Since learning objectives are highly content-specific, look for opportunities to explore the module’s ideas in discipline-specific ways.

Please see our Facilitator Guide 2015 for Module 3 for some suggestions of activities you can do in your MCLC or classroom to dive deeper into these topics.

What are Learning Objectives?

 

Video 0.3.1 – Week 3 Introduction

Dr. Derek Bruff from Vanderbilt University and Dr. Trina McMahon from the University of Wisconsin introduce the concept of learning objectives.


Video 3.2.1 – Learning Objectives vs Syllabus 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder provide their definitions of learning objectives/goals. They go on to discuss the differences between learning objectives and points on a syllabus.

Video 3.2.1 Slides


Video 3.2.2 – Why Do We Need Learning Objectives 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder illuminate common issues professors and students encounter in the classroom, laying the foundation for why learning objectives are important.

Video 3.2.2 Slides


Video 3.2.3 – How can Learning Objectives be Helpful? 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen from University of Colorado Boulder and others discuss how learning goals and objectives have improved their instruction and the success of their students.

Discussion: Think of a transformational educational experience. What did you learn? What made this so powerful? Based on your own post, and comparison to posts from other students, name some of the things that you value in education.

Video 3.2.3 Slides


Application of Learning Objectives

 

Video 3.3.1 – Introduction to Backwards Design 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder introduce the concept of backward design.  They discuss why backward design is useful and how to effectively implement this concept in course design.

Video 3.3.1 Slides


Video 3.3.2 – Course Scale Goals vs. Topic Level Objectives 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder define learning goals vs. learning objectives and how they are related.

Video 3.3.2 Slides


Video 3.3.3 – How to Align Objectives and Assessments in Your Course 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder address the importance of aligning your learning objectives and your assessment techniques.  They go on the provide examples regarding how to effectively align learning objectives and assessment techniques.

Discussion: Find one or two example exam questions or homework problems specific to your discipline. Post the problems here, and discuss what the learning objective might have been for each problem. Do you think that this is a worthwhile objective?

Video 3.3.3 Slides


 Why are Learning Objectives Important?

 

Video 3.4.1 –  What does it mean to understand something? 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder discuss how instructors can “unpack” their larger learning goals into smaller learning objectives and importance of making sure all of the objectives fit under a larger learning goal.

Video 3.4.1 Slides


Video 3.4.2 – Breaking Down a Topic

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen from University of Colorado Boulder facilitates a discussion among several graduate student teaching assistants concerning breaking down larger learning goals into focused learning objectives.

Discussion: In the video, Stephanie Chasteen introduced some strategies for breaking down a topic into components or steps. Choose a topic you might teach—photosynthesis, buoyancy, linear equations, plate tectonics, heat transfer, something else—and discuss what it means to understand the topic, including at least five different elements or steps of understanding. Watch out for your own expert blindspots!


Video 3.5.1 –  Mapping the Terrain: What should they know, and how deeply? Part 1 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder introduce different types of learning that an instructor can take advantage of and how fitting your learning objectives into one of these categories can facilitate the creation of effective learning objectives and goals.  They go on to discuss Bloom’s Taxonomy and how it relates to these different categories of learning.

Video 3.5.1 Slides


Video 3.5.2 –  Mapping the Terrain: What should they know, and how deeply? Part 2 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder provide a more in depth discussion of Bloom’s Taxonomy and the importance of considering and defining the types of learning goals and objectives the instructor would like students to achieve at the end of the course or a section of the course.

Discussion: In a course you took or taught recently, what were a few things that required learning at low levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy? At higher levels of Bloom’s? Name some tasks from that same course that allowed student learning in the different areas of understanding – cognitive, metacognitive, affective, and procedural.

Video 3.5.2 Slides


Additional Learning Objective Tools

 

Video 3.6.1 – Making Your Objectives Useful: Potential Struggles 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder address the importance of creating learning objectives that are clearly stated and understandable from the student’s perspective.  They also discuss a number of potential issues that educators can run into when trying to express their learning objectives.

Video 3.6.1 Slides


Video 3.6.2 – Making Your Objectives Useful: Checklist 

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder provide a checklist for creating effective learning objectives.  They discuss examples of useful learning objectives vs learning objectives that are not as clear.

Video 3.6.2 Slides


Video 3.6.3 – Refining Your Objectives

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen from University of Colorado Boulder introduces the best ways to refine your learning objectives.  She then discusses this concept with a group of graduate students who give their advice on how to effectively refine learning objectives.

Discussion: Choose one or two of the objectives provided to “make over.” Write a better version of the learning objective, using the learning goals checklist from the video. This may require some interpretation and creativity on your part, as it is not clear what the instructors wants in the provided objectives.


Video 3.7.0 – Institutional Considerations: Broader Context

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen from University of Colorado Boulder talks with several faculty members from UC Boulder about creating learning objectives with their department, institution and discipline in mind.  They discuss how learning objectives can be created to give students the best possible foundation for future employment.

Discussion: What questions did the video raise for you about the borader context of your learning objectives? What are some things you want to keep in mind about this broader context?

Video 3.7.0 Slides


Video 3.8.0 – Final Thoughts

Dr. Stephanie Chasteen from University of Colorado Boulder recaps the main takeaway messages from this module and provides some more helpful tips for creating useful learning objectives.

Discussion: What are one or two ideas from the module that you want to be sure to remember? Why do you think these are important? What do you think will be most challenging about writing your goals and objectives?

Video 3.8.0 Slides


Video 0.3.2 – Week 3 Wrap Up


Week 3 Peer-Graded Assignment

Introduction

For this peer-graded assignment, we’re asking you to practice developing concrete, useful, measurable learning objectives.  Doing so is the first step in the backward design process, so it’s important that you improve your ability to craft good objectives.

First, select a topic that would be appropriate for an introductory STEM course you might teach one day.  You can choose any topic you like, but feel free to pick one of the following suggestions:

Photosynthesis (biology)

Reactions and rates (chemistry)

Buoyancy (physics)

Plate tectonics (geology)

The derivative (mathematics)

Conditionals (computer science)

(By focusing on an introductory course, you’ll make it easier for your peers, who might not be in your discipline, to give you feedback.)

Second, write an appropriate course-level learning goal for the course that this topic would appear in. Your goal should start with the phrase, “Students should be able to…”

Third, write three topic-level learning objectives for this topic.  Your objectives must begin with the phrase, “Students should be able to…” One of your objectives should fall at the “understand” level of Bloom’s taxonomy, one at the “apply” level, and one at the “analyze” level.  (This three-level structure is a bit artificial, but it’s useful for this practice activity.)

Finally, answer the following questions about your three topic-level learning objectives.

For your “understand” objective, what one or two misconceptions might your students have that would make it challenging for them to meet this objective? (Consider the discussion of prior knowledge in Week 1.)

For your “apply” objective, what aspects of the objective might be hard for a novice but second-nature to an expert? How might you make these aspects more explicit when working with students?  (Consider the discussion of expert blind spots in Week 2.)

For your “analyze” objective, how would this objective require students to understand relationships among multiple concepts or principles? (Consider the discussion of knowledge organizations in Week 1.)

For each objective, how might you measure a student’s achievement of that objective? (Next week will feature an in-depth discussion of assessment, but it’s useful to have some ideas at this stage.)

Implementation

What topic have you selected for your assignment?

Write an appropriate course-level learning goal for the course that this topic would appear in.

Rubric:

0 points – Unacceptable – Assignment not completed.

1 point – Needs Improvement – Too difficult to understand, or not an appropriate course-level goal based on the topic.

2 points – Acceptable – Has some merits, but is not focused on what students should be able to do at the end of the course.

3 points – Good – Is aimed at an overarching idea, but could use some improvement in terms of clarity or focus on what students should be able to do.

4 points – Sophisticated – Is aimed at an overarching idea presented in the course, is clear, and focuses on what students should be able to do.

Write three topic-level learning objectives for this topic, one for each of the following levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy: understand, apply, analyze.

Rubric:

0 points – Unacceptable – Assignment not completed.

1 point – Needs Improvement – None of the three goals is expressed in terms of what the student will achieve or be able to do.

2 points – Acceptable – Exactly one of the three goals is expressed in terms of what the student will achieve or be able to do.

3 points – Good – Exactly two of the three goals are expressed in terms of what the student will achieve or be able to do.

4 points – Sophisticated – All three goals are expressed in terms of what the student will achieve or be able to do.

 

For your “understand” objective, what misconceptions might your students have that would make it challenging for them to meet this objective?  (Consider the discussion of prior knowledge in Week 1.)

Rubric:

0 points – Unacceptable – Assignment not completed.

1 point – Needs Improvement – Some discussion of misconceptions, but no apparent connection between the objective and misconceptions identified.

2 points – Acceptable – Identifies related misconceptions, but the objective doesn’t fit the “understand” level of Bloom’s.

3 points – Good – Identifies related misconceptions, but not ones directly applicable to the objective.

4 points – Sophisticated – Identifies specific misconceptions that would require surfacing and addressing before students could meet the objective.

For your “apply” objective, what aspects of the objective might be hard for a novice but second-nature to an expert?  How might you make these aspects more explicit when working with students?  (Consider the discussion of expert blind spots in Week 2.)

Rubric:

0 points – Unacceptable – Assignment not completed.

1 point – Needs Improvement – Some discussion of the objective, but no apparent connection between the objective and the expert blind spots.

2 points – Acceptable – Identifies relevant expert blind spots, but the objective doesn’t fit the “apply” level of Bloom’s.

3 points – Good – Identifies relevant expert blind spots, but teaching strategies listed aren’t directly relevant.

4 points – Sophisticated – Identifies relevant expert blind spots and potentially useful strategies for making them explicit to students.

For your “analyze” objective, how would this objective require students to understand relationships among multiple concepts or principles?  (Consider the discussion of knowledge organizations in Week 1.)

Rubric:

0 points – Unacceptable – Assignment not completed.

1 point – Needs Improvement – Some discussion of related concepts, but no apparent connection between the goal and those concepts.

2 points – Acceptable – Identifies multiple concepts relevant to the objective, but the objective doesn’t fit the “analyze” level of Bloom’s.

3 points – Good – Identifies multiple concepts relevant to the objective, but is somewhat vague as to relationships among those concepts.

4 points – Sophisticated – Identifies multiple concepts relevant to the objective, as well as specific relationships among those concepts.

For each objective, how might you measure a student’s achievement of that objective?   (Next week will feature an in-depth discussion of assessment, but it’s useful to have some ideas at this stage.)

Rubric:

0 points – Unacceptable – Assignment not completed.

1 point – Needs Improvement – None of the three objectives seem to be well-defined and measurable.

2 points – Acceptable – Exactly one of the three objectives seem to be well-defined and measurable.

3 points – Good – Exactly two of the three objectives seem to be well-defined and measurable.

4 points – Sophisticated – All three objectives seem to be well-defined and measurable.

 
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