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Learning objectives are used to describe what a learner should know, understand, or be able to do after participating in the instructional process. They can help instructors identify what they want their learners to learn and provide an indication of how well the learners have learned it. They also provide information about performance expectations for assessment purposes.

Why Are Learning Objectives Important?

By building learning objectives into your instructional design, you will ensure that both you and your students know what they should be able to do. Learning objectives can provide learners with a clear understanding of the material and enable them to self-reflect on their own progress.

They also help instructors determine whether the learner has mastered the material by providing specific criteria for assessment. Learners who have clear expectations set out at the beginning of a course may feel more engaged and less confused throughout it as well.

How to Write Effective Learning Objectives?

A learning objective must be written in a way that clearly describes the knowledge, skills, and attitude (KSA) the learner should develop. It provides information about what can be achieved by performing specific activities and what will not be covered in detail.

It generally consists of three parts:

  • A verb — or action word such as “identify,” “apply,” or “assess.”
  • The target behavior of the learner, which also includes a subject and an object of the action (what they’re doing and whom it’s being done to)
  • What they will know, understand, or be able to do at the end of instruction (knowledge) or after applying their knowledge in a specific context (i.e., skill or attitude)

For example, a learning objective for an assignment might be: By the end of this certificate course in Singapore, learners should be able to list and explain at least five reasons why training is important to organizations.

The Different Types of Learning Objectives

Learning objectives tend to fall into one of the following four categories:

  1. Factual — facts and information you need to recall at a later time (e.g., the order in which Christopher Columbus discovered the continents)
  2. Conceptual — knowledge about how ideas, facts, and concepts relate to each other (e.g., knowing that Singapore is in southeast Asia)
  3. Procedural — knowledge that involves skills such as problem-solving, decision-making, or even executing a task such as cooking a specific dish (e.g., creating an Excel document with only three input cells and three output cells)
  4. Attitudinal — goals related to developing certain feelings or beliefs toward oneself or others (e.g., being able to accept constructive criticism from another person)

Once again, a learning objective must be written to describe the knowledge, skills clearly, and attitude (KSA) the learner should develop.

Tips for Using Learning Objectives in Instructional Design

Include learning objectives in the course design to help you and your learners identify what they should be able to do. Here are a few tips for using them effectively:

  • Clearly state the learning objective(s) within a specific context
  • Don’t add any unnecessary information to the objective statement itself
  • Keep objectives SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound
  • Add an action verb to your learning objectives
  • Include both positive and negative examples in your objective statement
  • Keep learning objectives consistent with course goals and program outcomes
  • Identify the level at which the learning objective is to be applied (basic, intermediate, or advanced)
  • Ensure that your learners will know what they want to learn when utilizing the learning objective in an assignment or project
  • Avoid using vague language such as “master,” “understand,” and “compare and contrast”
  • Ensure that all instructional materials are focused on the identified learning objectives
  • If you have specific requirements for your courses, include them within a course review document rather than your learning objectives
  • Use various words and phrases in your objective statements to make them more interesting and impactful.

Conclusion

When writing learning objectives, pay attention to detail and be sure that they are specific enough that the learner knows exactly what is expected of them. If they are too vague, then the learner will not be able to complete the assignment or project on time effectively. Use action verbs, be specific about what you want them to know and how it applies to them, and avoid using words that do not have a clear meaning.

If writing learning objectives is new for you, make sure that you use these tips as guides every single time. When learners receive an assignment with learning objectives clearly defined, they are more likely to complete their tasks in a timely manner successfully. More importantly, they are also more likely to master the material being taught because they know exactly what they need to learn before beginning the course.