Thursday, July 24, 2014

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Learning Objective

Do you know how to write a learning objective for your lesson plan?


Part 1 Definition & Structure

Do you know that writing an effective learning objective is the most critical part of creating a lesson plan?  It is the core that drives the content creation, instructional flow, tests and class evaluations.  You may have great contents and delivery methods for your class or tutoring session, but if the learning objectives are not well defined in the first place, all energy will be wasted.  Imagine driving without a final destination!


In this post, we will go over the general definition and the structure on how to write a learning objective. In the second part, we will practice writing one together.

Before we talk about how to create a learning objective, let's talk about what it is.
Based on American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), a learning objective is a clear statement of the skills or behaviors you expect your learners to acquire and demonstrate during the class or tutoring session and the level of performance that is to be demonstrated.
In short, a learning objective describes

  • what will your student learn and act at the end of the class
  • the conditions under which they will take those actions
  • the criteria of performance proficiency they will be required to show

If you are not familiar with your student's background, it is strongly recommended to first conduct a "Student/Performer Analysis" before writing a learning objective.  Refer to my previous post or click here.

You can also refer to Robert Mager's 1962 book, Preparing Instructional Objectives.  This book is the most widely established method of formatting a learning objective.

Step 1: Identify three key components for a learning objective

  • Action statement
Uses an observable verb to describe what activity students will do as the result of a class or a tutoring session.  For example, enter the correct formula

  • Performance condition statement
Summarizes the tools, materials, working aids or other items students will have when taking the action. For example, given a spreadsheet with data entered, calculation steps, and quick reference...

  • Performance criterion statement
States the quality or quantity standards required for acceptable achievement during the training program.  The criterion may include specifications relating to accuracy, quality, or time.  For example, to produce the calculation requested without error.


Step 2: Combine the three key components to construct a learning objective

The second step is to combine the action, performance condition and performance criterion statements into a complete learning objective.  Using the examples above, the learning objective will be

Given a spreadsheet with data entered, calculation steps, and quick reference, the student will enter the correct formula to produce the calculation requested without error.

This is just one learning objective for your entire lesson plan.  Remember, your lesson plan may have more than one learning objective.  In tomorrow's post, we will go over few examples and tips for writing an effective learning objective.

Feel free to post one of your learning objectives in the comment below.  Please share or +1 if you find this post helpful!


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