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Developing Measurable Learning Objectives

Instructor: Monica Gragg

Monica has taught college-level courses in Tourism, HR and Adult Education. She has a Master's in Education and is three years into a PhD.

This lesson provides a brief overview of the purpose of learning objectives and how to make them useful to you and the students. We use the SMART learning objective formula to demonstrate accountability using examples.

Purpose of Learning Objectives

Have you every attended a lecture and at the end thought, ''Why did I need to know that information''? No matter how well you know the subject, every lesson should start with a learning objective. Why? Because students need direction and motivation.

If you don't explain to students why a lesson or course is useful to them, whether the information is on a test, a prerequisite for another lesson, or important for their future, students may lose interest and not take the lesson seriously.

We can't assume that student want to learn about everything presented to them. They need motivation. Additionally, you need structure. How can you prepare a lesson without having an end goal? In other words, after an hour or full day of lecturing, what do you want students to be able to do with that information?

Learning objectives also keep you accountable. Sometimes when we are planning, we get carried away with adding content or making the lesson fun and engaging. Learning objectives help justify every activity. For example, I am a hands-on educator, and I like to have a lot of activity in the classroom. At the same time, I'm well aware that too much of a good thing is not always helpful and a game may not be the right activity for that topic. So I always compare each activity with the learning objective by asking, ''Will this activity help students achieve the learning objective?'' If the activity is not appropriate, then I adjust.

General vs. Measurable

As an educator, I believe we share responsibility in a student's success. Because of this belief, I focus on creating measurable learning objectives as opposed to general learning objectives. I want to be able to measure a student's performance or their understanding of the topic, in order to measure our overall success. Let's compare a general learning objective to a measurable learning objective.

General Learning Objective - Today, students will learn about American history in the 1960s.

That's great, but it does not explain why they need to learn about American history in the 1960s or what they will be able to do with that knowledge. It is very broad.

Measurable Learning Objective - To satisfy course requirements, students will learn about four historical events in American history from the 1960s. The lesson will cover the Civil Rights Movement, the first U.S. manned space flight, the Cuban Missile Crises, and the Vietnam War. The lesson will be a combination of lectures, discussions, and presentations over a three-week period. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to explain, in essay form or discussion, how these events impacted America both then and now.

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