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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Writing Learning Objectives

This handout from the Penn State Learning Design Hub looks useful if  occasionally wordy and too obvious in places: it could do with streamlining lest it turn into another way to generate interminable reports. It smacks of one of those QM things too. As a recovering writing teacher, I'd start with a very short statement of purpose (aka thesis statement) and then one sentence each for each of the basic questions. A short paragraph and a mission statement. The biz folk have it right about keeping those short. 

Rationale: Writing clear course objectives is important because:

  • Objectives define what you will have the students do.
  • Objectives provide a link between expectations, teaching and grading.
Basic Information

Questions you need to think about
Who are your students? Freshman? Senior? A mix of different prior knowledge and experience?
Is this course a general education course or a course required for the major?

The A.B.C.D. method
The ABCD method of writing objectives is an excellent starting point for writing objectives (Heinich, et al., 1996). In this system, "A" is for audience, "B" is for behavior, "C" for conditions and "D" for degree of mastery needed.
  • Audience – Who? Who are your learners?
  • Behavior – What? What do you expect them to be able to do? This should be an overt, observable behavior, even if the actual behavior is covert or mental in nature. If you can't see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or smell it, you can't be sure your audience really learned it.
  • Condition – How? Under what circumstances or context will the learning occur? What will the student be given or already be expected to know to accomplish the learning?
  • Degree – How much? How much will be accomplished, how well will the behavior need to be performed, and to what level? Do you want total mastery (100%), do you want them to respond correctly 80% of the time, etc. A common (and totally non-scientific) setting is 80% of the time.
follow the link below for Examples of Well-Written Objectives (or at least one the authors of this handout consider well-written ~ badly written objectives can be as informative, how not to guides)

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