A course objective specifies a behavior, skill, or action that a student can demonstrate if they have achieved mastery of the objective. As such, objectives need to be written in such a way that they are measurable by some sort of assessment. Course objectives form the foundation of the class. Everything in the course should work together to ensure students master the course objectives.

For instructors, articulating the course learning objectives helps clarify expectations and guides the development of a course. The practice of referring to learning objectives while creating lectures, assignments, and assessments keeps all of these teaching components conceptually aligned.

Well-defined and articulated learning objectives:

  • Provide students with a clear purpose to focus their learning efforts
  • Direct your choice of instructional activities
  • Guide your assessment strategies

The most important and challenging aspect of writing good learning objectives is defining observable behavior that can be measured. “Learning” and “understanding” are laudable instructional goals, but they are not observable or measurable. You cannot measure learning or understanding; but you can measure how well a student can organize, label, explain, or create. 

For students, learning objectives describe exactly what to expect from a course and provide a rationale for the work they’re asked to do. 

CTL Resources:

 Student Learning Outcomes Assessment (CTL webpage) 

 Assessing Student Learning (CTL webpage) 

Further Reading & Resources:

 Learning Objectives, Carnegie Mellon University Eberly Center

 Writing Course Goals/Learning Outcomes and Learning Objectives, Iowa State University Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

 Cognitive Process Examples and Verbs Handout, CU Denver Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning