The Guide to Writing Learning Objectives

Luke Leighfield
Luke Leighfield, Content Writer

Leaning objectives play a vital role in course design. Before you dive into writing your course, it's important that you're super clear about your learning goals.

By creating solid learning outcomes and measurable learning objectives, it'll help with your instructional design – keeping student learning on track.

Storyboarding and animatics for modern video teams. Get organized, produce your best work.

How to write learning outcomes

Learning outcomes (sometimes called course goals) are a broad statement of what your students will be able to do once they've completed the course. You could call the learning outcome the ‘moral of the story’.

Your learning outcomes should be connected to the overall goals of the curriculum for your subject. When you clarify these larger ideas and connect them to the curriculum, it helps students see why the course content is relevant.

One way to write learning outcomes is to think of them as responses to this phrase:

At the end of the course, students will…

Here's a sample learning outcome:

At the end of the course, students will have shown that they can use grammar conventions when creating paragraphs.

How to write learning objectives

Once you've figured out the learning outcome(s) for your course, it's time to develop some learning objectives. Effective learning objectives allow students to show specific ways that they've gained knowledge, skills, or a change in attitude.

These two questions can help you write clear learning objectives:

  • sparkle
    What behaviours or applications would help you to know what students have learned?
  • sparkle
    What evidence or products would help you to know whether students truly understand a subject, as opposed to just being able to recall facts?

One way to articulate learning objectives is to think of them as responses to this phrase:

At the end of the course, students will be able to…

Here's a sample learning objective:

At the end of the course, students will be able to pick out ten rules of grammar that are used in the construction of a ten-sentence paragraph.

If your course is made up of modules or units, you might want to develop a few learning objectives for each module. Or you could have four to six learning objectives for the whole course.

Looking to make an eLearning storyboard? Learn the best practices in our trusty guide.

Four-part ABCD learning objectives

Robert Mager's ABCD model is a way to make sure your learning objectives are specific and measurable. It helps to guide instructors and aid students in the learning process.

Each letter asks a different question about your objective: who, what, how, and how much. You might not need each of the four letters for every learning objective. But it's a good model to keep in mind.

Audience (A)

Who are your learners?

Each learning objective should list something that your audience is able to do after the training. Sometimes, you'll refer to the audience in general terms – like 'the learner' or 'you'. Or it might be more specific, like 'the press operator'.

Behaviour (B)

What do you want your audience to do?

Each learning objective should list something that your audience must do – a behaviour of some sort. It could be simple, like stating a definition or explaining a process. Or it could be something more physical, like performing an action.

The crucial thing is that it's observable behaviour – not something that you can't see, like 'know,' 'understand,' or 'appreciate.'

Conditions (C)

How will the learning happen?

Many learning objectives need to be performed under certain conditions. For example, you might say 'given this list of words, circle the ones that are part of a given machine,' or 'given a wrench, tighten this bolt,' or 'given a schematic diagram, correctly identify the machines in a work area.' You may not always need this learning condition, but you should check to see if it's necessary.

Degree (D)

How much will the audience accomplish?

This final part of the learning objective explains the criteria for adequately performing the task. It might be 'in less than five minutes,' or 'with 80% accuracy,' or '15 times an hour.'

Again, you may not always need this learning condition, but you should check to see if it's necessary.

Get the Ultimate PDF Storyboard Template Bundle

10 professionally designed storyboard templates as ready-to-use PDFs.

download

Understanding Bloom's taxonomy

Before you start writing learning objectives, it's a good idea to get a handle on Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Developed by a group of educators in the late 1940s, it classifies learning objectives into three levels of complexity and specificity.

  • sparkle
    The cognitive (mental skills or knowledge)
  • sparkle
    The affective (feelings and emotional skills or attitude)
  • sparkle
    The psychomotor (manual or physical skills)

The main concept of Bloom's taxonomy is that levels of learning can be arranged in a hierarchy. These levels of learning range from less to more complex knowledge. Each level is successive, so students need to master one level before reaching the next one.

Six levels of objectives in the cognitive domain

The original levels published by Bloom and co. in 1956 were in this order:

  1. sparkle
    Knowledge – recognising or remembering facts, terms, basic concepts, or answers without necessarily understanding what they mean
  2. sparkle
    Comprehension – demonstrating an understanding of facts and ideas by organising, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating the main ideas
  3. sparkle
    Application – solving problems in new situations by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules.
  4. sparkle
    Analysis – examining and breaking information into component parts, determining how the parts relate to one another, identifying motives or causes, making inferences, and finding evidence to support generalisations.
  5. sparkle
    Synthesis – building a structure or pattern from diverse elements; it also refers to the act of putting parts together to form a whole.
  6. sparkle
    Evaluation – presenting and defending opinions by making judgments about information, the validity of ideas, or quality of work based on a set of criteria.

The Kratwohl remix

In 2001, David Krathwohl published a revised version of Bloom’s taxonomy. This revision of Bloom's original incorporates everything that's been learned in the 40+ years since it was first published.

The revised Bloom's taxonomy has more outcome-focused modern level objectives. It includes switching the names of Bloom's levels from nouns to active verbs. The two highest levels have also been changed, with the top level now being ‘create’.

The revised levels are:

  1. sparkle
    Remember
  2. sparkle
    Understand
  3. sparkle
    Apply
  4. sparkle
    Analyse
  5. sparkle
    Evaluate
  6. sparkle
    Create

A list of action verbs

As we've learned, effective learning objectives need to be observable or measurable. One way to do this is by using action verbs – like 'identify,' 'argue,' or 'construct' – rather than passive verbs – like 'understand' or 'be aware of.'

There are lots of action verbs associated with each level of the revised Bloom’s taxonomy. They're super helpful for writing good learning objectives, assignment objectives, and exam questions.

Remember

  • sparkle
    Choose
  • sparkle
    Describe
  • sparkle
    Define
  • sparkle
    Label
  • sparkle
    List
  • sparkle
    Locate
  • sparkle
    Match
  • sparkle
    Memorise
  • sparkle
    Name
  • sparkle
    Omit
  • sparkle
    Recite
  • sparkle
    Select
  • sparkle
    State
  • sparkle
    Count
  • sparkle
    Draw
  • sparkle
    Outline
  • sparkle
    Point
  • sparkle
    Quote
  • sparkle
    Recall
  • sparkle
    Recognise
  • sparkle
    Repeat
  • sparkle
    Reproduce

Understand

  • sparkle
    Classify
  • sparkle
    Defend
  • sparkle
    Demonstrate
  • sparkle
    Distinguish
  • sparkle
    Explain
  • sparkle
    Express
  • sparkle
    Extend
  • sparkle
    Give examples
  • sparkle
    Illustrate
  • sparkle
    Indicate
  • sparkle
    Interrelate
  • sparkle
    Interpret
  • sparkle
    Infer
  • sparkle
    Match
  • sparkle
    Paraphrase
  • sparkle
    Represent
  • sparkle
    Restate
  • sparkle
    Rewrite
  • sparkle
    Select
  • sparkle
    Show
  • sparkle
    Summarise
  • sparkle
    Tell
  • sparkle
    Translate
  • sparkle
    Associate
  • sparkle
    Compute
  • sparkle
    Convert
  • sparkle
    Discuss
  • sparkle
    Estimate
  • sparkle
    Extrapolate
  • sparkle
    Generalise
  • sparkle
    Predict

Apply

  • sparkle
    Choose
  • sparkle
    Dramatise
  • sparkle
    Explain
  • sparkle
    Generalise
  • sparkle
    Judge
  • sparkle
    Organise
  • sparkle
    Paint
  • sparkle
    Prepare
  • sparkle
    Produce
  • sparkle
    Select
  • sparkle
    Show
  • sparkle
    Sketch
  • sparkle
    Solve
  • sparkle
    Use
  • sparkle
    Add
  • sparkle
    Calculate
  • sparkle
    Change
  • sparkle
    Classify
  • sparkle
    Complete
  • sparkle
    Compute
  • sparkle
    Discover
  • sparkle
    Divide
  • sparkle
    Examine
  • sparkle
    Graph
  • sparkle
    Interpolate
  • sparkle
    Manipulate
  • sparkle
    Modify
  • sparkle
    Operate
  • sparkle
    Subtract

Analyse

  • sparkle
    Categorise
  • sparkle
    Classify
  • sparkle
    Compare
  • sparkle
    Differentiate
  • sparkle
    Distinguish
  • sparkle
    Identify
  • sparkle
    Infer
  • sparkle
    Point out
  • sparkle
    Select
  • sparkle
    Subdivide
  • sparkle
    Survey
  • sparkle
    Arrange
  • sparkle
    Breakdown
  • sparkle
    Combine
  • sparkle
    Detect
  • sparkle
    Diagram
  • sparkle
    Discriminate
  • sparkle
    Illustrate
  • sparkle
    Outline
  • sparkle
    Point out
  • sparkle
    Separate

Evaluate

  • sparkle
    Appraise
  • sparkle
    Judge
  • sparkle
    Criticise
  • sparkle
    Defend
  • sparkle
    Compare
  • sparkle
    Assess
  • sparkle
    Conclude
  • sparkle
    Contrast
  • sparkle
    Critique
  • sparkle
    Determine
  • sparkle
    Grade
  • sparkle
    Justify
  • sparkle
    Measure
  • sparkle
    Rank
  • sparkle
    Rate
  • sparkle
    Support
  • sparkle
    Test

Create

  • sparkle
    Combine
  • sparkle
    Compose
  • sparkle
    Construct
  • sparkle
    Design
  • sparkle
    Develop
  • sparkle
    Formulate
  • sparkle
    Hypothesise
  • sparkle
    Invent
  • sparkle
    Make
  • sparkle
    Originate
  • sparkle
    Organise
  • sparkle
    Plan
  • sparkle
    Produce
  • sparkle
    Role Play
  • sparkle
    Drive
  • sparkle
    Devise
  • sparkle
    Generate
  • sparkle
    Integrate
  • sparkle
    Prescribe
  • sparkle
    Propose
  • sparkle
    Reconstruct
  • sparkle
    Revise
  • sparkle
    Rewrite
  • sparkle
    Transform

Nail your learning objectives with Boords

Boords is the storyboarding app for educators and creative professionals. Simplify your pre-production process with storyboards, scripts, and animatics – then gather feedback – all in one place. Creating storyboards has never been simpler.

Boords’ templates are set up with eLearning best practices in mind so you can jump right into creating content.

More from the blog...

How to Make an eLearning Storyboard: Step-by-Step Guide Plus Links to Templates

eLearning storyboards are a big help when you're designing eLearning development courses. We'll show you how to make them.

How to do an eLearning Needs Analysis

Performing an eLearning needs analysis takes time and costs money but is a fundamental step in creating eLearning content.

A guide to Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction

Gagné's Nine Events of Instruction model is a nine-step process for good instructional design.