Learning objectives are explicit statements that clearly express what learners should be able to comprehend, perform or experience by the end of a course or instructional period (Adams, 2015).
They are fundamental to the process of educational planning and instructional design, acting as vehicles that drive both teaching and learning strategies.
Importantly, they ensure coherence and a clear focus, differentiating themselves from vague educational goals by generating precise, measurable outcomes of academic progress (Sewagegn, 2020).
I have front-loaded the examples in this article for your convenience, but do scroll past all the examples for some useful frameworks for learning how to write effective learning objectives.
Learning Objectives Examples
|Subject Area||Learning Objective||Verbs Used|
|Communication Skills||“By the end of the communication skills course, learners should be able to deliver a five-minute persuasive speech on a topic of their choice, using clear language and effective body language.”||deliver, using|
|Chemistry||“Upon completion of the chemical bonding module, learners will correctly interpret Lewis structure diagrams for 10 common molecules.”||correctly interpret|
|Psychology||“By the end of the course, students should be able to apply the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy to three case studies, and predict the likely outcomes of such therapies.”||apply, predict|
|Mathematics||“On completion of the statistics unit, learners will be able to compute standard deviation for a given data set with at least 95% accuracy.”||compute|
|Computer Programming||“After eight weeks of the intermediate Python program, learners will design and implement a fully-functioning game using Pygame library.”||design, implement|
|History||“After studying the Civil War unit, students will write a 1500-word essay comparing the major causes of conflict between the North and South, using at least five primary sources.”||write, comparing|
|Foreign Language||“By the end of level one French, learners will correctly conjugate 20 common regular and irregular verbs in present tense in a written quiz.”||correctly conjugate|
|Marketing||“At the end of the course, students will develop a complete marketing plan for a new product, incorporating market research, SWOT analysis, and a marketing strategy.”||develop, incorporating|
|Nursing||“Upon completing the pediatric coursework, nursing students will demonstrate proper techniques for measuring vital signs in infants and toddlers during simulation labs.”||demonstrate, measuring|
|Art||“By the end of the introductory drawing course, learners will present a portfolio containing at least five different still life drawings, showcasing mastery of shading techniques.”||present, showcasing|
|Nutrition||“Participants will identify five key differences between plant-based and animal-based proteins by the end of the session.”||identify|
|Education Policy||“Students will evaluate the impact of No Child Left Behind policy on student performance in a final course essay.”||evaluate|
|Literature||“Learners will analyze symbolic elements in George Orwell’s 1984, submitting a 2000-word essay.”||analyze, submitting|
|Biology||“Upon completion of the genetics module, pupils will describe the process of DNA replication in a written test.”||describe|
|Music||“By the end of the semester, students will perform a chosen piece from the Romantic period on their main instrument for the class.”||perform|
|Physics||“Upon completion of the Quantum Physics course, students will explain the two-slit experiment using wave-particle duality theory.”||explain, using|
|Economics||“Learners will compare Keynesian and Classical economic theories, articulating the main disagreements between the two in a PowerPoint presentation.”||compare, articulating|
|Fitness Coaching||“Participants will construct personalized long-term workout plans, considering their fitness level and goals, by the end of the course.”||construct, considering|
|Criminal Justice||“Students will identify key components of an effective rehabilitation program for juvenile offenders in a group presentation.”||identify|
|Philosophy||“Learners will debate ethical issues using principles from three philosophical movements studied during the course.”||debate, using|
|Geography||“By course-completion, students will chart and explain the impact of climate change on five major global cities.”||chart, explain|
|Environmental Science||“Students will conduct an experiment to measure air pollution levels in different areas of the city, presenting their findings in a lab report.”||conduct, measure, presenting|
|Sociology||“After studying social stratification, learners should be able to classify various social behaviors and phenomena into different social classes.”||classify|
|Dance||“Learners will choreograph a three-minute dance routine incorporating at least five different dance moves learned during the course.”||choreograph, incorporating|
|Culinary Arts||“Students will prepare a five-course French meal, showcasing the cooking techniques and recipes studied throughout the program.”||prepare, showcasing|
Learning Objectives for Internships
|Subject Area||Learning Objective||Verbs Used|
|Marketing Internship||“I will develop and implement a mini, digital marketing campaign for a new product, to hone my social media marketing skills.”||develop, implement, to hone|
|Engineering Internship||“My objective is to collaborate in the development of a new product prototype, applying my CAD software skills.”||collaborate, applying|
|Psychology Internship||“I aim to conduct literature reviews on at least five recent articles related to cognitive behavior therapy, enhancing my research and analytic skills.”||conduct, enhancing|
|Finance Internship||“I intend to assess different investment portfolios and present my findings, to expand my financial analysis skills.”||assess, present, to expand|
|Hospitality Internship||“During my intern period, I will manage an event at the hotel, focusing on developing my event planning and operation skills.”||manage, focusing|
|Legal Internship||“I plan to summarize five recent court case outcomes related to environmental law, bolstering my legal research skills.”||summarize, bolstering|
|Journalism Internship||“By the end of my internship, I will compose and publish two articles in the local news section, refining my journalistic writing skills.”||compose, publish, refining|
|Healthcare Internship||“My goal is to record patient medical histories and vital signs, strengthening my clinical and interpersonal skills.”||record, strengthening|
|Public Relations Internship||“I seek to draft and disseminate a press release for a new branch launch, to expand my corporate communication skills.”||draft, disseminate, to expand|
|Human Resources Internship||“I aim to participate in the hiring process of a new team, including CV screening and interview coordination, enhancing my personnel selection skills.”||participate, enhancing|
For more, see: List of SMART Internship Goals
Learning Objectives for Presentations
|Subject Area||Learning Objective||Verbs Used|
|Motivational Talk||“In my presentation, I aim to inspire the audience by sharing a personal experience of overcoming adversity, enhancing my storytelling skills.”||inspire, sharing, enhancing|
|Business Proposal||“I will construct a compelling business model presentation, honing my skills in business communication and critical analysis.”||construct, honing|
|Research Presentation||“I intend to summarize my research findings and implications, thus refining my abilities in research communication.”||summarize, refining|
|Book Report||“My objective is to offer an insightful analysis of a chosen book, improving my ability to critique literary works.”||offer, improving|
|Cultural Awareness||“I will communicate significant cultural norms and values of a specific culture, promoting cultural understanding and boosting my skills in intercultural communication.”||communicate, promoting, boosting|
|Product Demo||“I aim to demonstrate the features and uses of a product, sharpening my ability to engage and inform potential customers.”||demonstrate, sharpening|
|Environmental Advocacy||“In my presentation, I intend to advocate for sustainable lifestyle habits, strengthening my skills in persuasive communication.”||advocate, strengthening|
|Training Workshop||“I’m aiming to instruct participants in a new skill or process, raising my capabilities in instructional presentation.”||instruct, raising|
|Startup Pitch||“I plan to deliver a compelling startup pitch that includes progress, financial projections, and investment opportunities, thus building my skills in business pitching.”||deliver, building|
|Health and Wellness Seminar||“I want to provide practical methods for stress management to my audience, developing my skills in presenting health-related topics.”||provide, developing|
Learning Objectives for Kindergarten
|Subject Area||Learning Objective||Verbs Used|
|Language Arts||“Students will recognize and say all 26 letters of the alphabet before the end of the first semester.”||recognize, say|
|Numeracy||“By the end of the second semester, children will count from 1 to 50 without assistance.”||count|
|Social Studies||“Kindergarteners will identify three different community helpers (like firefighters, doctors, and teachers) and explain their roles.”||identify, explain|
|Science||“Children will distinguish between animals and plants by grouping pictures of living things.”||distinguish, grouping|
|Physical Education||“By the second marking period, students will follow basic rules of an organized game such as ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’.”||follow|
|Arts||“Learners will create a self-portrait using colors, shapes, and lines through given art supplies.”||create|
|Phonics||“At year-end, learners should blend three-letter words using learned phonics sounds.”||blend|
|Reading||“Students will read a 5-sentence paragraph from a beginner reader book aloud to the class.”||read, aloud|
|Writing||“Learners will write their own name without assistance by the end of the kindergarten year.”||write|
|Mathematics||“Kindergarteners will sort objects based on characteristics such as shape, size, or color.”||sort|
Taxonomies to Assist in Creating Objectives
Various taxonomies are available to educators as guides in formulating potent learning objectives, with three prominent ones provided below.
1. The SMART Framework for Learning Objectives
The SMART framework helps you to construct clear and well-defined learning objectives. It stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (Doran, 1981).
- Specific objectives are ones that are straightforward, detailing the what, why, and how of the learning process. For example, an objective that states “Improve mental multiplication skills” is less specific than “Multiply two-digit numbers mentally within two minutes with 90% accuracy.” When I was learning to write learning objectives at university, I was taught to always explicitly describe the measurable outcome.
- Measurable objectives facilitate tracking progress and evaluating learning outcomes. An objective such as “Write a 500-word essay on the causes of World War II, substantiated with at least three academic sources” is measurable, as both word count and the number of sources can be quantified.
- Achievable objectives reflect realistic expectations based on the learner’s potential and learning environment, fostering motivation and commitment.
- Relevant objectives correspond with overarching educational goals and learner’s needs, such as an objective to “identify and manage common software vulnerabilities” in a cybersecurity course.
- Time-bound objectives specify the duration within which the learning should take place, enhancing management of time and resources in the learning process.
2. Bloom’s Taxonomy
Each level is demonstrated below:
|Level of Learning (Shallow to Deep)||Description of Learning||Verbs to Use in your Learning Objectives|
|Remember||Retain and recall information||Reiterate, memorize, duplicate, repeat, identify|
|Understand||Grasp the meaning of something||Explain, paraphrase, report, describe, summarize|
|Apply||Use existing knowledge in new contexts||Practice, calculate, implement, operate, use, illustrate|
|Analyze||Explore relationships, causes, and connections||Compare, contrast, categorize, organize, distinguish|
|Evaluate||Make judgments based on sound analysis||Assess, judge, defend, prioritize, critique, recommend|
|Create||Use existing information to make something new||Invent, develop, design, compose, generate, construct|
Here, we can reflect upon the level of learning and cognition expected of the learner, and utilize the Bloom’s taxonomy verbs to cater the learning objectives to that level.
3. Fink’s Taxonomy
Another helpful resource for creating objectives is Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning, which emphasizes different dimensions of learning, including foundational knowledge, application, integration, human dimension, caring, and learning how to learn (Marzano, 2010):
- Foundational knowledge refers to the basic information learners must understand to progress with the topic at hand—for instance, understanding color theory before painting a canvas.
- Application gives learners real-world instances for applying the knowledge and skills they’ve cultivated, such as using Adobe Photoshop in a design project after a graphic design lecture.
- Integration enables learners to make interdisciplinary connections between the new knowledge and various fields of study or areas of life—for example, a business student applying economic theory to understand market dynamics in biotechnology.
- Human dimension involves personal and social implications of learning, i.e., how the learners see themselves and interact with others in light of the new knowledge.
- Caring challenges learners to develop new feelings, interests, or values aligned with the course outcomes, like fostering a conservation mindset in an environmental science course.
- Learning how to learn encourages learners to become self-directed and resourceful, enabling them to cultivate learning strategies, skills, and habits that make them lifelong learners, such as using reflective journals or peer reviews (Marzano, 2010).
An example of an objective that uses Fink’s framework could be:
“Learners will conduct a small research project about a famous physicist (foundational knowledge), incorporating class teachings (application) and their own interpretations (integration), then present to the class (human dimension), reflecting on how the physicist’s work affects them personally (caring) and how the project grew their understanding of research methods (learning how to learn).”
Why are Learning Objectives Important?
Effective learning objectives serve to streamline the learning process, creating a clear path for both teachers and learners.
The role of objectives in education mirrors the use of a roadmap on a journey; just as marking out stops and landmarks can facilitate navigation, learning objectives can clarify the trajectory of a course or lesson (Hall, Quinn, & Gollnick, 2018).
On a practical level, imagine teaching a course about climate change. Without explicit learning objectives (like understanding how carbon footprints contribute to global warming), learners could easily veer off track, misinterpreting the main focus.
Learning objectives also act as an anchor during assessments, providing a yardstick against which progress and performance can be gauged (Orr et al., 2022). When students are graduating high school, for example, it’s likely they’ll be assessed on some form of standardized testing to measure if the objectives have been met.
By serving as a guide for content selection and instructional design, learning objectives allow teachers to ensure coursework is suitably designed to meet learners’ needs and the broader course’s objectives (Li et al., 2022). In situations where time is crucial, such as military training or emergency medicine, keeping the focus narrow and relevant is crucial.
Tips and Tricks
1. Tips on integrating Learning Objectives into Course Design
Learning objectives serve as a foundation in the designing of a course.
They provide a structured framework that guides the incorporation of different course components, including instructional materials, activities, and assessments (Li et al., 2022).
When designing a photography course, for example, learning objectives guide the selection of appropriate theoretical content (like understanding aperture and shutter speed), practical activities (like a field trip for landscape photography), and the assessment methods (like a portfolio submission).
Just like how research objectives shape the methodology a research study will take, so too will learning objectives shape the teaching methods and assessment methods that will flow-on from the path set out in the overarching learning objectives.
2. Tips on Assessing and Revising your Learning Objectives Regularly
Learning objectives are not set in stone; they demand constant review and refinement.
In the light of feedback from learners, instructors or external bodies (like accreditation agencies), learning outcomes, and advancements in pedagogy, learning objectives may need to be revised (Orr et al., 2022).
Think about a programming course where new frameworks or libraries are regularly introduced; in such cases, the learning objectives would need to be updated to reflect these emerging trends. This provides opportunities for continual enhancement of the course design, thus fostering an environment of progressive learning and teaching (Sewagegn, 2020).
Teachers should revise their learning objectives every time they re-introduce the unit of work to a new cohort of students, taking into account the learnings and feedback you acquired last time you taught the unit.
Learning objectives, when effectively formulated and implemented, serve as key drivers of successful instruction.
They underscore the importance of clarity, directness, and depth in the learning process, fostering a learning environment designed for optimal learner engagement, progress tracking, and educational outcome (Hall, Quinn, & Gollnick, 2018).
With their expansive role in the educational journey, educators are encouraged to invest time and resourceful thought in crafting and continually refining their classroom objectives (Doran, 1981). Moreover, the use of established taxonomies and attention to characteristics like SMARTness in this process can greatly facilitate this endeavor.
As the backbone of well-structured courses, learning objectives deserve the thoughtful consideration and continuous improvement efforts of every dedicated educator. It is our hope that this article has provided insights that will help you bring more clarity, coherence, and effectiveness to your educational planning.
Doran, G. T. (1981). There’sa SMART way to write management’s goals and objectives. Management review, 70(11), 35-36.
Hall, G. E., Quinn, L. F., & Gollnick, D. M. (2018). Introduction to teaching: Making a difference in student learning. Sage Publications.
Li, Y., Rakovic, M., Poh, B. X., Gaševic, D., & Chen, G. (2022). Automatic Classification of Learning Objectives Based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. International Educational Data Mining Society.
Marzano, R. J. (2010). Designing & teaching learning goals & objectives. Solution Tree Press.
Orr, R. B., Csikari, M. M., Freeman, S., & Rodriguez, M. C. (2022). Writing and using learning objectives. CBE—Life Sciences Education, 21(3). Doi: https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.22-04-0073
Sewagegn, A. A. (2020). Learning objective and assessment linkage: its contribution to meaningful student learning. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 8(11), 5044-5052.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]