Learning objectives are the ways we plot our destination when we are creating or teaching a course, editing curriculum, or designing instructions. They are essentially the sweet deal we make with the learner to get them to join us on this journey.
The Importance of Learning Objectives
The learning objective is a statement of what the learners will learn by the end of the lesson. It’s saying to the learner: “Listen, if you spend the required time on this course, I promise that you will obtain XYZ”.
Learning Objectives need to be clear, measurable and transparent. And they must tell the learner:
- What they will learn
- By when
- To what degree
- Under which conditions
Here are some examples:
- By the end of this talk, you will be able to explain feminism to a child in elementary school.
- By the end of this course, the learner will be able to tie a Fisherman’s Knot by hand, in one go, using two slippery lines.
- After the completion of the 12-week lesson, the golfer will be able to hit the ball 200 yards, with a 7-iron by the 10th try.
- After reading this essay, the learner will be able to follow the steps to give themselves compassion and be able to recognize the signals of when they need to do it in their lives.
Writing Learning Objectives
Assuming you haven’t created your content, learning objectives can be inspired by the agenda, the course descriptions and the business goals.
There’s a basic formula:
OBSERVABLE ACTION + LEARNER AS A SUBJECT = LEARNING OBJECTIVES
So “Gain an appreciation for classical music” may not be a fully-developed learning objective until you’ve added the specific conditions, degrees and times:
“By the end of the session learners will understand the history and musical composition of classical music and will be able to identify the characteristics of classical music.”
Value for Both the Learner, the Teacher and the Writer
Perhaps you may have taken a course with no learning objectives or written pieces with the intention to teach without any objectives in mind and the end results were happy and satisfied learners…
However, generally speaking, learning objectives give both the learner /teacher/ writer:
- Security – no one is asking why am I here? No one is questioning what is useful and what is just bonus material.
- Accountability – if everyone is clear on what should be covered and what needs to be taken away and by when, everyone is held accountable for their own role.
- Fairness and transparency – The learner should be well-informed of any metrics or assessments post-lesson, and these assessments should be based on the learning objectives.
- Structure – By giving the learner objectives you are making it easier for the learner to concentrate. As a writer/instructor/designer, you can gather your content accurately, write it and present it in a clear and organized way. This is my personal reason for using learning objectives. I tend to write broadly and paint the concept with a large brush. Learning objectives have helped me narrow down content and see the lesson from the learner’s perspective.
It’s important to note that as a writer or a teacher, you are welcome to go off on tangents and add in personal stories or additional details outside of the set learning objectives — and this is usually appreciated by the learner.
Imagine the lesson like a road trip. You are the driver. The learner is the passenger. Consider the learning objections to be like the directions to your destination — you are free to take the scenic route but you’re setting out on your journey with the end in mind. And your learner is enjoying your company while trusting that you will get them to where they need to be.