How to Write [Good] Learning Objectives

Greg Wilson of Software Carpentry and I have been working to rewrite the learning objectives (LO) for the SWC book/online lessons. In doing so, we have been learning about the “best practices” for writing LO:

Three-part structure. Learning objectives should consist of three major parts – the conditions, the behavior, and the criterion. In the following example, the underlined part is the condition, the bolded is the behavior, and the italicized is the criterion:

Learning objective: Given a set of data, the student will be able to [correctly]
compute a balancing authority’s area control error.

Observable behavior. Learning objectives must be measurable with assessment. Do not use “the student will understand” or “the student will learn” in LO, because these are not measurable. Observable/measurable behaviors include: assess, classify, compose, construct, define, demonstrate, describe, diagram, distinguish, estimate, evaluate, identify, interpret, label, locate, measure, name, order, predict, reproduce, solve, state a rule, translate.

 Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 6.49.44 PM

Bloom’s Taxonomy. Learning objectives should target varying degrees of understanding; they should point to different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Baseline LO measure comprehension. As they progress in difficulty, students being to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate. Below is a list of observable behavior verbs associated with each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.



[1] Guide to Writing Learning Objectives, North American Electric Reliability Corporation

[2] A Model of Learning Objectives, Rex Heer


One thought on “How to Write [Good] Learning Objectives

  1. Pingback: Cait Pickens on Writing Good Learning Objectives | Teaching Software Carpentry

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