and Teaching a Course: Goals & Objectives
What are goals?
Course goals describe the overall purpose of the course - what you, as an instructor, want students to walk away with when the course is completed.
Course goals make a broad statement about the need, state or condition to be changed through instruction. For example:
This course provides a basic introduction to the field of psychology.
This course will teach advanced principles and methods of systems analysis
- Course goals are determined by the general purpose of the course within the larger curriculum and the audience for which the course is delivered.
- Goals are generated by identifying a disparity between a current state or capability and a desired state. Instruction is then designed to bridge that disparity.
How do we use them?
Goals help both the instructor and the student maintain a clear focus on the desired learning outcome. Periodic review of the course goals helps to keep both you and the student on track.
All other course components (content, learning activities, and means of assessment) are derived from, and based on, course goals.
- Things to consider
in developing course goals:
- Why does
this course exist?
- Where does
course fit into curriculum?
- What should
be taught (learned) in this course?
- Who takes
- When do
students take the course?
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DEVELOPING COURSE OBJECTIVES
What are course
How do we use them?
objectives state specific (vs. general) student learning
outcomes that should be achieved upon successful completion
of a course. They answer the question, "What will the student
be able to do after instruction?"
objectives are stated behaviorally, in "performance terms" with
action verbs such as identify, define, solve, compare,
- Course objectives
are observable and measurable.
- Objectives are
not learning actives, but learning outcomes e.g. Explain
Bloom's taxonomy rather than read or study Bloom's Taxonomy.
- Objectives also
specify any condition or criterion that qualifies the behavior
What then is the difference between goals and objectives?
- We can be confident that if the learning objectives are successfully accomplished, the course goals will have been achieved.
- Well written objectives help you in planning, organizing and delivering course content and help students direct and monitor their own learning.
- The objectives provide the framework for selecting and designing appropriate teaching and learning activities for each.
- Each objective designates what will be accepted as a valid demonstration of competency. Evaluation instruments and methods will be designed to assess the degree to which each objective is reached.
- Goals state the broad, overall purpose of a course in general terms.
- Objectives break goals down into explicit, observable and measurable behaviors that demonstrate competency.
- Objectives cumulatively ensure successful accomplishment of course goals.
For example, a goal might be to demonstrate beginner level competency in the care and riding of horses.
Corresponding behavioral objectives for this goal might include being able to do the following:
How Do We Write Objectives?
- Tack a horse and appropriately adjust the saddle for individual safety and comfort.
- Describe and demonstrate appropriate handling of reins and seating for walk, trot and canter.
- Demonstrate appropriate driving cues (leg positions) for walk, trot and canter.
- Define and demonstrate "half-halts, flexion, turn-on-the-forehand."
- Objectives do not describe what the instructor is going to do, nor should they describe a learning activity.
- Poor Example: Familiarize students with English and Western tack.
This is not an objective but rather a statement about what the instructor wants to do, not what the students will be able to do. In addition, "familiarize" is a vague verb that does not tell us much about what to expect in the way of learning.
- Good Example: Students will be able to identify the components of a standard English bridle and saddle and explain the design and purpose of each.
This is a statement about what the students will be able to do. Also, "identify" and "explain" are concrete verbs that reflect specific outcomes.
- Each objective states what students will be able to do after instruction and the level or depth of learning expected.
- Will students be able to demonstrate knowledge alone, or knowledge and comprehension?
- Will they be able to label the parts of a saddle but not to explain the purpose of each?
- Will they be able to assess the respective advantages and disadvantages of different types of saddles and evaluate appropriateness for different tasks.
- Bloom’s Taxonomy is a tool that is used to distinguish among different levels of thinking skills. In this taxonomy, Bloom describes six levels of thinking, from the simpler or lower levels (knowledge and comprehension) to more complex levels (analysis, synthesis). Using Bloom’s Taxonomy as a tool as you develop your objectives can ensure that you are focusing on the appropriate levels of thinking skills-ones that you want students to develop during your course.
The goal of most instruction is to progressively raise students’ level of thinking, beginning with the simpler or lower levels and moving up toward the more complex levels. The levels, corresponding processes and possible terms to reflect these are offered below as a convenient reference and reminder as you develop your instruction, learning activities and course evaluations.
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by recall or recognition: requires memory only
identify, recall, recognize... Who? What? Where? When?
| Example: Identify
the benefits of time management skills.
the literal message; requires rephrasing or rewording
compare, contrast, in your own words
Example: Describe important goals in setting up a weekly
use or application of knowledge to reach an answer
or solve a problem
an example, apply, classify
Example: Develop a weekly study schedule for a one-week period.
a complex whole into parts; identify motives or causes;
support, draw conclusions
Example: Analyze a completed study schedule for its effectiveness
original communication, solve a problem (more than
one possible answer)
design, predict, develop
Example: Develop a projected term study schedule.
judgments, offer opinions
decide, evaluate, assess
Example: Assess the effectiveness of the time schedule.
will be able to identify and describe each
stages of moral development. (This objective
requires Comprehension level #2 learning)
responses to a moral dilemma, analyze them
according to Kohlberg’s
stages of development. (Analysis level #4)
Theory of Moral Development in terms of its
potential validity in a non-western culture.
(Evaluation level #6)
Goals & Objectives
Writing Educational Goals and Objectives
This site defines goals and objectives and delineates between them. It then identifies the common types of objectives with tips for writing them followed by color-coded, well-written examples. Included is a final section listing typical problems in writing objectives.
Mager’s Tips on Instructional Objectives
This is considered by many to be the comprehensive guide to writing instructional objectives. It provides detailed directions including specific examples such as “Observable Verbs.” Under “Common Pitfalls” is a section on gibberish that is guaranteed to make many instructors wince at objectives like “Manifest an increasing comprehensive understanding.”
Writing Learning Objectives: Beginning with the End in Mind
This PowerPoint presentation “practices what it preaches,” listing on the first slide four objectives that participants will achieve. Additional slides spotlight some history of objectives; present the “magic triangle” of objectives, learning activities, and evaluation; relate the “measurable verb” to Bloom’s levels; and trace the evolution of a sample objective.
Writing Performance Objectives
This site provides a very brief overview to writing objectives. It does, however, include links to more comprehensive sites: Instructional Goals; Objectives: A Brief History Lesson; Writing Mager Objectives; and Learning Domains.
How to Write Great Learning Objectives
This article offers another brief guide to writing learning objectives. It draws on Robert Mager’s concept that a broad learning goal must be subdivided into specific learning objectives. The author explains Mager’s emphasis on specific verbs such as “describe” or “define” in place of the vaguer “understand” or “know.”