Learning Goals

Having good learning goals (also called "learning objectives" or "learning outcomes") is key to taking an evidence-based approach to education. This means faculty members laying out learning goals for the programs and individual courses in operational terms of what students should be able to do if they learned what the departmental faculty would like them to. These goals should include EVERYTHING the faculty hope students will learn, from concepts to vocabulary to specialized skills to habits of the mind, … Establishing clear goals informs the design of curriculum, teaching, and evaluation methods.

Below are a number of documents to help instructors develop learning goals.

The value and process of writing learning goals

What is the Value of Course-Specific Learning Goals?
Beth Simon, STLF, UBC Computer Science and Jared Taylor, STLF, UBC Life Sciences, conducted a study of student and faculty perceptions of the usefulness of learning goals (published in the Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov/Dec 2009).

"At the end of my course, students should be able to..:" The benefits of creating and using effective learning goals
Michelle Smith (Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology, CU) and Katherine Perkins (Physics, CU) describe the characteristics of good learning goals and the benefits of creating and using them (published in Microbiology Australia, March 2010).

An introduction to writing student learning goals, prepared by Jen Stempien and Andrea Bair, Geology Dept.

Course Alignment
A 2-pager on promoting course alignment by developing a suite of questions targeting a learning goal that can be used in different settings to measure student learning. Prepared by Françoise Bentley and Teresa Foley, Integrative Physiology Dept., University of Colorado-Boulder.

Verbs for use in Learning Goals - Bloom's Taxonomy.
A very useful document with verbs and model questions at different cognitive levels ("Bloom's Taxonomy") from "understanding" up to "synthesis." These verbs can help an instructor identify more precisely what they want their students to be able to do at the end of a course or topic.

Learning goals examples

Learning Goals/Objectives Examples
Good examples of learning goals — developed by departments involved in the Science Education Initiatives at UBC and the University of Colorado [Chemistry, Computer Science, Geological Sciences, Life Sciences, Physics, and Statistics].

Learning Goals - Computer Science
Learning goals developed for 5 UBC Computer Science courses.

Learning Goals – Introduction to Modern Physics
This is a complete set of learning goals for Physics 250, Introduction to Modern Physics, a 2nd year course for students in the Engineering Physics program at UBC. These learning goals were compiled by Louis Deslauriers and Carl Wieman.

Learning Goals – Upper Division Electricity & Magnetism (CU-Boulder)
This is a complete set of learning goals for Physics 3310, Principles of Electricity and Magnetism 1, a 3rd year course primarily for students majoring in physics at the University of Colorado – Boulder. These learning goals were compiled by Steve Pollock & Stephanie Chasteen with intensive input from many faculty in the Physics Department. People from other departments have commented that the course scale learning goals are broadly relevant and could be adapted to many other fields.

the UBC Computer Science Department experience

(most of this is very relevant to other departments):

Developing Learning Goals 101
How to Develop Learning Goals for an Established Course: The Computer Science Model. A document that Beth Simon put together that describes the successful process that the UBC Computer Science Department went through to establish learning goals in multiple courses.

Tracking Changing Learning Goals - Steve Wolfman's experience (1-page version)
Tracking Changing Learning Goals - (3-page version)
Account written by Steve Wolfman on the trajectory they went through in developing learning goals for CPSC 101.

A Glimpse into the Process of Creating Learning Goals
Script of a role-play discussion between Steve Wolfman and STLF Beth Simon. It attempts to re-enact and give the feel for the process used in the UBC Computer Science Department to create learning goals for their courses. They often started by looking at an exam question previously used in the class – and used this to stimulate discussion and refinement of the actual goals faculty had for students taking the course. The discussion is modeled from an exam question used in CPSC 101 (a course for non-majors) in Summer 2006.

Learning Goals - Computer Science
Learning goals developed for 5 UBC Computer Science courses.

Learning goals Workshop & talk Materials

See the "Workshops" page for handouts, slides, and other resources.