writing lesson plans objectives

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writing lesson plans objectives

How To Write Clear Lesson Objectives

Melissa Toohey

Lesson Objectives. As educators, we use them everyday to guide our practice and student learning. We read them, write them, and post them in our classrooms. They should be simple enough to write, right? Think again! While objectives seem simple enough to execute, they can be quite tricky to write. 

Why is it essential to write clear and meaningful objectives? Well-written objectives provide direction to instruction, guidelines for assessment, and provide instructional intent to others. Let’s parse this out. 

Objectives Provide Direction to Instruction 

Objectives give educators guidance, and keep teachers and students on track. A well-written objective provides a clear picture to both teacher and student as to what is occuring. Well-written objectives eliminate confusion.

Objectives Provide Guidelines for Assessment

A well-written objective will allow teachers to easily assess student learning, and gauge learning outcomes. For students, the objectives will set expectations for what they will learn, and what content needs to be mastered. 

Objectives Provide Instructional Intent to Others

An effective objective communicates the focus and purpose of the lesson, regardless of audience. Another instructor, administrator, and even students themselves can understand what learning goals and outcomes are anticipated from the lesson. 

How to Write an Objective

Objectives are such valuable parts of lesson planning and execution. Where do you start? Objectives must be specific, measurable, short-term, and observable. Seems simple enough, but that’s a lot of information to pack into a single sentence or two. How do you create a well-written objective? 

Ask yourself, “What should the student be able to do?” 

Remember, objectives must be measurable. Avoid using words like “understand”, “think”, “be aware of”, “learn”, and “have knowledge of” as these behaviors cannot be measured. 

Utilize Bloom’s Taxonomy 

If finding a measurable action is challenging, turn to Bloom’s Taxonomy! The chart below provides great verbiage to include into your objective. This list of Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs allows you to identify your student’s mastery and skill level and craft a high quality lesson. 

Use the Phrase, “Students will be able to…” 

If all else fails, begin your objective this way. What is it that you want your students to be able to do during and after the lesson?  A well-written objective will have four parts, it will state the audience (students), provide a measurable and observable behavior, and describe the circumstances, and describe the degree in which students will perform. For example, an objective could read, “Students will be able to write three differnt color codes in their Ozobot journal with no errors.”  

Let’s put it to the test. Are these well-written objectives? 

Students will understand how an Ozobot works. 

No! “Understand” is not measurable in this context. 

Students will enjoy coding Ozobot. 

No! While you could argue that at teacher could observe a student “enjoying” something, it’s not measurable. 

Students will write three pieces of code. 

No! While this objective is measurable, it does not provide circumstances or a degree to which students will perform. This could be re-written as “Students will write one program with three pieces of code in sequential order using Ozoblockly. 

Congrats! Now you know how to identify and write a well-written objective. What objectives can you think of for some Ozobot Lessons? Visit the Lesson Submission Tool  to create a new lesson with your spectacular objective! 

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Well-Written Examples of Learning Objectives

Group of children raising their hands to answer their teacher's question

Learning objectives, or learning outcomes, define the goals and expectations of a lesson. Learning objectives for individual lessons connect to the broader goals of a unit or course. Not only do learning objectives help you plan your curriculum, they also let students know what they will have learned by the end of a particular lesson.

The key to writing learning objectives is to make them SMART : Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Your assessment will tell you whether your objective was specific and measurable enough, while the lesson context dictates the objective’s attainability, relevance, and timeliness.

Examples of Good Learning Objectives

The key is writing objectives with realistic – yet challenging – expectations. Well-written objectives are basically assessment plans, making them easy for the rest of your lesson. Check out these learning examples for elementary and secondary students that are easy to measure and observe.

These objectives are designed for the cognitive domain of Bloom’s Taxonomy. There are additional skills to assess in the psychomotor and affective domains which are typically reserved for younger classes or students with special needs.

Components of Learning Objectives

A learning objective is one of the most important parts of a complete lesson plan. Most learning objectives start with a variation of SWBAT (Students Will Be Able To...), followed by clear and measurable language. A well-written objective should paint a vivid picture of what an observer would see in your classroom.

High-quality learning objectives include four elements. These objectives are the basis of the rest of your lesson plan, including the lesson context, procedures, and assessments.

1. What Students Will Be Able to Do

How will this lesson enhance a student’s education? Using strong, specific verbs, you’ll explain what skills your students will be able to exhibit and what level of knowledge they will attain. Note that action words like “write,” “draw,” or “present” are not the skills you are assessing.

Example: Students will be able to identify triangles.

2. How Students Will Demonstrate Their Learning

If someone were to walk into your classroom, how could they tell that students are learning? Use specific actions here, such as “write an introductory paragraph,” that are different from the skills you are assessing.

Example: Students will be able to identify triangles by choosing paper triangles out of a selection of other 2D shapes.

3. The Context for Learning

What will your lesson provide that students can build from? In other words, you should describe the context in which students will be able to demonstrate what they have learned.

Example: After a lesson on the characteristics of triangles, students will be able to identify triangles by choosing paper triangles out of a selection of other 2D shapes.

4. The Criteria for Achieving Proficiency

How will you know that a student has met their objective? Include specific criteria that will indicate how well a student has grasped a skill or concept.

Example: After a lesson on the characteristics of triangles, students will be able to identify triangles by correctly choosing paper triangles out of a selection of other 2D shapes at least 8 out of 10 times.

Examples of Poorly Written Objectives

The biggest mistake teachers make when writing learning objectives is using generic verbs that cannot be observed or measured. Writing objectives without including a visible product is also an avoidable error. Here are some examples of incomplete or poorly written objectives that do not follow the SMART model.

By the end of the lesson, students will understand the significance of World War II.

Mistake: “Understand” is not a measurable verb. There’s no way for students to demonstrate their understanding of whether World War II was significant.

Students will be able to write a full-length research paper and present their findings by the end of the class period.

Mistake: This is not an attainable goal for one class period. The teacher needs to adjust the time or their expectations.

Kindergartners will be able to recall parts of the story, write a summary of what happened, and predict what will happen next.

Mistake: This objective lists three distinct skills. Each lesson should only have one or two objectives, and one skill per objective.

Tips for Writing Learning Objectives

In writing your own learning objectives, keep some of these key pointers in mind:

More Lesson Plan Resources

Learning objectives for teachers seem tricky, but if they’re done well, they can help you create a strong lesson plan. Check out these tips on writing lesson plans or match your assessment section to the appropriate rubric type. And remember: no matter how solid your lesson plan is, there’s no substitute for quality instruction.

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Writing Measurable Learning Objectives

When you begin creating a course, you want to design with the end in mind. The best way to approach this is to start by writing measurable, learning objectives. Effective learning objectives use action verbs to describe what you want your students to be able to do by the end of the course or unit. Aligning assessments with course expectations is much easier when you have written measurable objectives from the beginning.

Here are some examples of learning objectives we’ve seen and how we revised them:

Course level outcome examples

Understand is not a measurable verb, however the intent of the instructor was to have the students be able to describe, which is measurable.

Describe and create are two different levels of learning, and it’s strongly suggested that you avoid having more than one action verb. Create is a higher level of learning than describe, therefore it can be assumed that you will be able to describe the process prior to applying it.

Unit level examples

Understand is not a measurable verb , and it was too broad for a unit level objective. Therefore, we narrowed the focus.

Complete the quiz is an action item for the student, not a learning objective. If your assessment is being used to meet your objective, then you will want to write a measurable objective that describes the content of the assessment. For a course to meet the Quality Matters standards, it must have learning objectives that are measurable and the assessments must align with the learning objectives. For example, if your learning objective has the action verb “identify”, then you do not want to have an assessment that is above that level of learning, such as analyzing the topic. On the other hand, if you have an application level verb, such as “design”, then you do not want to assess the learning objective with only a multiple choice, knowledge level quiz. Remember, when creating assessments, look at the action verb being used for your learning objective and the level of learning to apply. Co-written with fellow Quality Matters expert, Steven Crawford. Bloom’s image created by Alyssa Robinson.

Join the conversation

Bloom’s taxonomy of learning levels has indeed created an effective foundation for the formulation of learning objectives, valued by a number of education practitioners as has shaped their assessments for learning at different levels. However, I concur ,to some extent, with the view of SOLO that knowledge cannot be just confined to the lower(est) level of the hierarchy (if I understand the argument correctly) , because knowledge should be foundation of all (6) levels of learning. I believe that without a basic knowledge/ understanding of something, it would be difficult to apply, create or evaluate it.

The 6 levels of learning from Bloom’s Taxonomy are applicable in Face to face, Blended and online learning. The emphasis on this or that level depends on the expected measurable learning objective as settled by the course developer/ the facilitator. I appreciate the QM standards and they will help me to improve my course from at all stages and consequently improve on students engagements in progressive self assessment on how the expected measurable and effective learning objectives are being achieved.

Helpful article about Bloom’s and excellent comments. Despite different viewpoints, all were beneficial.

i am studying for my Certified Nurse Educator exam and one of the practice exam questions calls for differentiating between course learning objectives, unit learning objectives and level learning objectives. Can some clarify how to tell the difference between these?

When writing an objective essay/paper, try to follow these tips: • Be specific instead of vague or general. … • Do not use opinionated, prejudiced, or exclusive language. … • Avoid using first person to keep it more professional and less about you. … • Try not to over exaggerate your writing. • Read more at https://www.essaypeer.com

In my view Bloom’s levels have zero support from psychology of thinking, learning or cognition or cognitive science or learning theory.

They are particularly PERNICIOUS because they devalue knowledge and practice

The so called ‘levels’ are simply different, PARALLEL features of expertise about a topic

The literature on EXPERTISE is relevant to learning objectives, Bloom is a red herring, For expertise see, e.g. Chase, Simonn, Chi,& particulalrly ERicsson and references therein

Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R. T., & Tesch-Römer, C. (1993). The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Psychological Review, 100(3), 363-406. Ericsson, K. A. (2009). Development of professional expertise: Toward measurement of expert performance and design of optimal learning environments: Cambridge University Press. Anders Ericsson, K. (2008). Deliberate Practice and Acquisition of Expert Performance: A General Overview. Academic Emergency Medicine, 15(11), 988-994. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00227.x

This is a sensible approach to the design of learning objectives. However, the following statement sounded alarms: ‘In Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are six levels of learning. It’s important to choose the appropriate level of learning, because this directly influences the type of assessment you choose to measure your students’ learning.”

This is exactly what’s wrong with Bloom’s taxonomy. Recommend investigating the SOLO taxonomy – far preferable for designing learning outcomes (and pretty much everything else.)

SOLO takes account of the fact that every level of understanding is underpinned by knowledge – this means you’re not having to limit your self to an “appropriate level of learning” and your assessment can be designed to help them make progress through the levels of understanding.

The SOLO taxonomy is certainly an interesting model; however, I feel that it is more geared towards a constructivist classroom. We prefer to use Bloom’s taxonomy for several reasons when designing our online courses: 1) the Quality Matter’s Rubric is the core of our online course design principles and the rubric focuses on measurable learning objectives, 2) very few faculty here are constructivist educators, 3) online education requires a tremendous amount of planning and design and therefore makes a constructivst model difficult to effectively implement, especially for large enrollment courses.

Personally, I like the idea of building knowledge comprehension in a survey course and then in advanced courses having the student apply, analyze, and evaluate using that foundational knowledge.

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Course Design

Learning objectives.

Updated on January 25, 2023

Start With The End In Mind

To start with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of  where you hope your students will end up. Once you know the destination, it is easier to figure out “How will I know if my students got there?” and “What I can do to help them get there?”.

Drawing from the backward design framework (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005), the first step in the course design process is to determine the purposes and goals of the course. Most instructors do this informally; that is, they have in mind the skills, knowledge, and attitudes they want students to gain by the end of the term. Effective instructional design encourages instructors to express these items in measurable and specific ways, so that students have clear guidance about what is expected of them and how their performance will be assessed. These specific statements are typically called learning objectives.

Learning objectives, sometimes referred to as learning outcomes (Melton, 1997), are the statements that clearly describe what students are expected to achieve as a result of instruction. Different from broad learning goals, learning objectives provide clear criteria for instructors to assess whether students are meeting the desired learning goals. Here is an example of how learning goals and learning outcomes relate to each other:

Benefits of Learning Objectives

Well-written learning objectives can be:

A compass for instructors: to guide the design of fair course assessment plans, selection of content/activities/teaching strategies/technologies, and make sure all critical course components are purposefully aligned to support student learning.

A map for students: to see a clear picture of where the course is taking them and what is expected to be successful in the course. Students will be able to direct and monitor their learning throughout the lesson/unit/semester by referring back to the learning objectives.

What Is An Effective Learning Objective?

Learning objectives should be student-centered, describing what the students should be able to accomplish as a result of instruction, rather than what the instructor will cover or do in the course. To ensure your learning objectives are student-focused, it’s helpful to precede your objectives with this prompt: “Upon successful completion of this course/module/unit, students will be able to ____.”

To give students a clear understanding of where they are headed, well-written learning objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-oriented, and Time-bound (SMART).

Smart learning objective

S pecific – it focuses on the “scientific methods”

M easurable – “describe” and “provide examples”are measurable and observable indicators

A chievable – this is appropriate for an introductory level course

R esult-oriented – it focuses on the result (describe/ provide examples) rather than the process

T ime-bound – students know that this is a skill they should master by the end of this unit

How to Write  Effective Learning Objectives

As you create your learning objectives, think in terms of what evidence students will provide to demonstrate a level of mastery of the objective. A well-constructed learning objective consists of two parts: an action verb to make the type of learning explicit + the object .

To write well-constructed learning objectives, you might follow the following the steps:

Step 1: Identify the object (think about skills, knowledge, attitudes, abilities to be gained).

Step 2: Determine the mastery level.

Determining the action verbs can be a tricky task. Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives can be an extremely useful framework for determining what level of cognitive activity a learning objective falls into and matching that level with appropriate forms of the assessment. 

1)Remember: recognize/ recall knowledge from memory. Example of action verbs: identify, define, list, label, match, name, select, recall, recognize, repeat, state. Example of assessments: quizzes with multiple-choice questions, True/False question, Fill-in-blank questions. 2) Understand: comprehend meaning from instructional messages. Example of action verbs: classify, compare, describe, distinguish, discuss, explain, illustrate, select, summarize, translate, rank, rate. Example of assessments: short-answer questions, discussions, concept map, comparison chart. 3) Apply: carry out procedures in a given situation. Example of action verbs: apply, calculate, computer, develop, execute, graph, relate, use, operate, organize, practice, implement, solve. Example of assessments: problem solving, demonstrations, sketches, simulations, case studies, role-play. 4) Analyze: break down material into constituent parts. Example of action verbs: analyze, inquiry, differentiate, organize, demonstrate, integrate. Example of assessments: case studies, discussions, questions, debate, essays, presentations, role-play. 5) Evaluate: make judgements based on a set of criteria. Example of action verbs: assess, coordinate, monitor, critique, conclude, test, judge. Example of assessments: projects, problems, case studies, simulations, critiques, debates. 6) Create: create original products, put together separate elements into a coherent whole. Example of action verbs: generate, design, produce, develop, construct, formulate. Example of assessments: projects, presentations, artifacts showcase. Adapted from Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs and Activities by Lida Hokkanen, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

The revised Bloom’s taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) has six categories, from less complex on the left to more complex on the right:

Step 3: Complete the learning objective statement.

Step 4: Tweak and refine your learning objectives (using the Learning Outcome Review Checklist from Cornell) .

Writing learning objectives examples

Implementing Learning Objectives

Align your course components with learning objectives.

Even the best-written learning objectives are useless unless they relate to the actual instructional content, activities, and assessments of the course. If the course content and assessments are not aligned with the learning objectives, instructors will not have the appropriate data for determining whether students are meeting the desired goals. Students will feel confused or frustrated by the mismatch between the course objectives, evaluation, and content. The action verbs can help instructors review the alignment between their course components.

Here is an example:

Misaligned objectives & assessments

Well-aligned objectives & assessments

Notice how the first example doesn’t require students to actually use any analysis skills, compared to the second example.



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