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Developing Learning Objectives and Outcomes

Developing Learning Objectives and Outcomes

Author: Kathleen Johnson

This lesson explains how to develop learning objectives and outcomes.

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Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you're having a wonderful day today. Today we're going to be looking at developing targets, learning objectives, outcomes, and competencies. For today's lesson, I've chosen a quote by Buddha, which states, "There is no wealth like knowledge and no poverty like ignorance." And all of the things we're looking at today are all about helping to get that knowledge out in front of students.

So by the end of the lesson today, you will be able to evaluate the best practices in developing learning targets, objectives, outcomes, and competencies. First let's go ahead and look at the process of writing targets. Now, it's important to note that targets are really the simplest, most specific learning goals that are available to students and to teachers. And each target is usually expressed as one singular goal. So one very specific thing.

Finally, as we've addressed before, learning targets are really what students should know or be able to do by the end of that lesson, so they're written at the lesson level, and they're often written as I can statements.

Let's go ahead and take a look at the process of writing targets. First you're going to want to go ahead and select that instructional objective. So the objective, it usually states with students should know or do. But do not write the targets so that they include what teachers will do. It is not about the teacher. It's about the student.

Then you're going to want to reword that objective into kid friendly language. That's so that the student can understand and be able to monitor their own progress. But do not use language that is not appropriate for the grade level that you teach, that makes it too difficult and too complicated.

Often it's a good idea to model or provide examples of what the student should be able to do. And make sure that you are writing targets that can be measured. You do not want targets that cannot be measured. That doesn't help you. You're going to want to make sure you display the targets so that all of the students can access them or find them. You can do that in a number of different ways.

But make sure that you do not display the learning objectives, or all of those that don't apply to a current lesson or unit. You want to make sure that you keep it simple and sweet so kids can focus on what they need to know. Finally, I would recommend you consider starting the target with an I can statement. That helps the student verbalize it and it gives kind of that ownership and empowerment.

So here are some bad targets for a ninth grade class. I can think about the way tone affects my story. Obviously, it's difficult to measure what a student is thinking about. Use concrete sequential reasoning to show how tone reflects the author's existential crisis.

Clearly, the vocabulary there is not really in kid-friendly language. I'm not sure I would have known what all of that meant as a freshman in college, much less a freshman in high school. A better way to phrase each of these elements into a target could be, I can identify examples of tone in a story. That's clearer and easier for the teacher and the student to be able to grasp.

Now, let's go ahead and take a look at the process of writing objectives. So objectives contain multiple targets. They are a little more complex. And they're often, just like targets though, written at the lesson level. Objectives should be about behaviors or actions at that lesson level, and they are often written on what the student should be able to do by the end of that lesson.

Now, let's go ahead and take a look at the process of writing objectives. First and foremost, you're going want to make sure that you include a measurable verb, oftentimes based in Bloom's taxonomy. Don't include verbs that are not measurable, such as know or understand. You want to make sure that there's that action involved that kids can grasp. Then describe what the student will be able to know or do by the end. Don't describe what the teacher will be able to do, or the instructional process. That's not what an objective is.

Make sure that you include the various criteria for success. Don't be ambiguous. We want students to be clear. We want teachers to be clear. Everyone should know what they're getting themselves into. And finally, writing objectives focuses in on the content and skills, and those that are priorities to that lesson. Not really surface level content or skills. Make sure you dig deep here.

So some examples of bad objectives for ninth grade could be, the teacher will watch students discuss how tone impacts the story. It's great to note that, but that's not an objective because it's not student centered. Or students will show they know how tone impacts a story. That's pretty ambiguous. How are they going to show that to you? Let's get a little bit clearer.

So for a better objective for ninth grade, we could say students will identify examples of tone-- identify, there is that verb right there that's easy to grasp --in a story, and participate in a class discussion on how tone impacts the story. Totally student centered. Clear, concise, focusing in on skills and content.

Now let's go ahead and look at the process of writing outcomes. Outcomes encompass many multiple objectives. So you can see we're building on things here. They are more complex, so the most complex of these three elements we've talked about so far. Outcomes are often written at either the unit level or the course level. So it's much bigger and broader. And they explain really how students will demonstrate their mastery over a certain content or skill element, those standards.

So let's go ahead now and take a look at the process of writing those outcomes. First and foremost, you want to make sure you include what students will know by the end of the unit or the course. Focus in on the larger element, but do not focus on what teachers will do to help get them there. This is all about what students will know, the end goal, the finish line.

Also make sure that you include those observable and measurable elements for success, using those verbs that go right in line with Bloom's taxonomy to make sure that students are capable, and that you know exactly what you're looking for. Don't include language that is not observable or measurable.

So a bad outcome for ninth grade would be teachers will test students on tone in To Kill a Mockingbird. That's really just a note for what you want to do at the end. That isn't an outcome. It's teacher based, not student. Or students will understand To Kill a Mockingbird. How do I measure whether or not they will understand the book? What is that even really getting at? It's very vague. It's not helpful.

A better outcome for ninth grade would be students will write a persuasive paper examining the use of tone in the trial section of To Kill a Mockingbird. It's clear, it's specific, it tells what they'll be able to do at the end. And I know what I'll be looking for as a teacher when I look at it.

Finally, let's take a look at writing competencies. It's important to note that competencies are concrete student abilities that incorporate many, many, many different skills. They include concrete measurable skills and abilities, so that we are able to measure those. And when either an outcome or an objective includes those skills, that set of capabilities is considered a competency. So just so you know when we talk about things like that.

The process for writing those competencies is first to include a single measurable element of what students should know, to use observable and measurable verbs, similar stuff to what we've been hearing before. So let's take a look at that bad competencies from ninth grade.

A bad one would be students will know what the theme of a text is and can understand how it develops throughout a story. Again, not very clear, not very measurable. Students can identify all major literary elements in a story. That's a whole lot of different elements. That's not a single measurable element. That's too much for a competency.

A better competency for ninth grade would be students can determine the theme of a text, identify how it's shaped by the detail of a text, and analyze its development throughout the story in detail. So we have clear skills, but they're all centered around a single major element or competency here.

Now that we've reached the end of the lesson, you are able to evaluate the best practices in developing learning targets, objectives, outcomes, and competencies. Take just a moment now to reflect on the way in which you would begin writing these for your lessons. To dive a little deeper and learn how to apply this information, be sure to check out the additional resources section associated with this video. This is where you'll find links targeted toward helping you discover more ways to apply this course material.

Notes on "Developing Learning Objectives and Outcomes"

(00:00-00:22) Intro

(00:23-00:31) Objectives

(00:32-03:01) Writing Targets

(03:02-05:10) Writing Objectives

(05:11-07:04) Writing Outcomes

(07:05-08:27) Writing Competencies

 (08:28-08:35) Review

(08:36-08:54) Reflection

Additional Resources

Clear Learning Targets Guide

This comprehensive guide provides an overview of formative instructional practices to encourage student achievement. Included in this document is an easy to follow guide on setting learning goals and writing student friendly targets.