What makes learning objectives so helpful to instructors and to the course building process?
Upon completion of this article, readers will be able to:
Identify why learning objectives are important to instructors
Recognize how learning objectives save instructors time during three steps of the course building process
Recognize how learning objectives assist in authoring effective assessment content
Recognize how learning objectives help in assessing students
Last week, I covered the basics of learning objectives, including what they are (and what they aren't), and the role they play in promoting student learning.
Learning objectives aren’t just fantastic tools for students, however. They’re also incredibly helpful tools in the course-building process itself—which means they’re great for you, too.
Why Should Learning Objectives Matter to You, the Instructor?
I know what you’re thinking. “Aren’t learning objectives just there to tell the students what they’ll gain from my course?” That’s their basic premise, yes.
But learning objectives also stand to benefit you.
The four areas learning objectives are relevant to you include:
Selecting course content
Organizing course content
Determining course materials
Authoring effective assessment content
Why Are Learning Objectives Important to Course Building?
Just as learning objectives help guide students through your course, they also help you build, design, and structure your course.
Learning objectives help facilitate course building in three ways: selecting content, organizing that content, and determining course materials.
Since your learning objectives represent the knowledge and skills your students are meant to acquire through your course, you can use your learning objectives to inform the content of your course.
What content should you include that will help your learning objectives be achieved? What content is extraneous to your learning objectives?
Developing your learning objectives before you begin to author your content will make the authoring process go much faster, as you’ll have the learning objectives to use as a guide.
How do you want your content to be organized? Your learning objectives serve as the blueprint for how your content is structured and how it will best flow by helping to determine the order in which topics will appear, which material will be considered foundational, and which sections complement one another and should be covered in tandem.
Using your learning objectives as the foundation for organizing your content will make the process more efficient and ensure that the material will be presented in an orderly and logical manner and that nothing will be left out.
Determining Course Materials:
Now that you’ve selected and determined your course content, you need to determine the materials needed to facilitate the learning of that content. Your learning objectives can also help you select your teaching materials.
Use your learning objectives to ask yourself: what materials will best help my students meet each learning objective? What materials will best represent and complement different topics to help bring them to life? From that point on, it’ll be much simpler to determine which materials are needed and which won’t be very helpful.
Why Are Learning Objectives Important to Assessments?
Your learning objectives and assessments are inextricably linked because your learning objectives inform the content included in your assessments. After all, the purpose of your assessments is to evaluate whether or not your learning objectives are being met.
Authoring Effective Assessment Content:
Your learning objectives should always be clearly aligned with your assessments. Once your learning objectives are developed, writing your assessments will be much quicker and easier—and more coherent, since they were based on your learning objectives.
Learning objectives can also help in assessing your students.
Assessing Your Students:
If you don’t know what you’re measuring, how can you know what to assess?
Your learning objectives function as that measurement. Since they act as the model for what you want your students to gain, they also serve as built-in criteria for what you need to assess. In this way, you can use them to determine whether your students are effectively engaging with your course, are progressing properly, and are accomplishing what they need to accomplish.
Good learning objectives improve learning, yes, but as shown above, they can also help improve teaching (and make it that much easier to accomplish your goals as an instructor).
*Insert C&T call to action, relating how we can help them build all of these steps, etc).
But with all this talk about the what and the why of learning objectives comes the most important question: the how. Specifically, how do you write effective learning objectives?
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you by now to stay tuned for the main event—next week’s how (and Part 3): how to write effective learning objectives!