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Activities & Learning Objectives

student reading with learning object light bulb overhead.
Review where to find Student Learning Objectives and Course Measurable Objectives for Mt. SAC courses. 


(For Use With Fink’s and Bloom’s Taxonomies)

A learning objective is an outcome statement that captures specifically what knowledge, skills, attitudes learners should be able to exhibit following instruction. A common misapplication of objectives is for the teacher/presenter to state what he/she is going to do (e.g., “My plan this morning is to talk about…”), rather than what the student is expected to be able to do (e.g., “After this session, you should be able to…”).

Creating clear learning objectives during the planning process of a unit/week/individual session serves the following purposes: Helps unit planners integrate across a day/week/unit of learning Serves to connect content and assessment around learning Guides selection of teaching/learning activities that will best achieve objectives Gives learners a clear picture of what to expect and what’s expected of them Forms the basis for evaluating teacher, learner, and curriculum effectiveness

Key components of a learning objective: “SMART”

  • Specific
  • Measurable/Observable
  • Attainable for target audience within scheduled time and specified conditions
  • Relevant and results-oriented
  • Targeted to the learner and to the desired level of learning

Suggestions for creating useful learning objectives

  •  finish the sentence, “After this unit/week/individual session, you should be able to…”
  • Start with an observable action word that captures what the learner should be able to do (see examples in Table 1 of A-Fink’s and B-Bloom’s).
  • Avoid ill-defined terms that are open to variable interpretation (e.g., understand, learn, grasp); use instead terms that describe directly observable behaviors. (Even though some elements of Fink’s Taxonomy, such as the human dimension, caring, and learning to learn, may be difficult to measure/observe, they are still worth identifying as objectives and striving to achieve in teaching/learning activities.)
  • When necessary, specify criteria concerning expected standard of performance (e.g., “Describe a mechanism in support of your hypothesis from the organ system down to level of cells and molecules.”).

To scaffold attainable learning objectives:

  • Consider the beginning level of understanding/skill of your learners and craft your objective to move them to the next level.
  • Consider and specify when appropriate the conditions under which performance will take place (e.g., “On a written exam, describe…” or “With a standardized or actual patient, demonstrate…”)
  • Limit number of objectives to major learning points you would like students to walk away with.

To create objectives targeted to the audience and desired level of learning/thinking:

  • Ask yourself whether you want learners to be able to: know, apply, integrate, consider the human dimension, care, or learn to learn (Fink); or know, comprehend, apply, analyze, synthesize, or evaluate (Bloom).
  • These outcomes represent different levels/kinds of thinking. Match your action verb to the desired level (See Table 2 in Sections A & B).
  • Match learning objective with appropriate teaching/learning strategy (See Table 3 in  Sections A & B).


 * Adapted from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine Teacher & Educational Development program, 2005.