Documentation:Building Cohesion Between Goals and Assessment/Writing Goals and Objectives

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Writing Goals and Objectives

Communicating your goals and objectives for the course will help:

  • you select and organize your course content and develop learning activities, instructional strategies and assessments that support your goals.
  • your learners direct their learning efforts and monitor their progress.

Learners may also articulate their own goals for the course, which may result in increased motivation and engagement.

Carnegie Mellon University offers an excellent resource on the the value of learning objectives in promoting student learning.

Course Goals

Course goals are broad statements about what learners will have achieved by the end of the course. They are meant to be enduring and will provide the basis for the development of learning objectives, which are more specific and fine-tuned. Using the metaphor of your course as a building, the course goals might be the foundation and the objectives the scaffolding - important to the construction, but not the same as the foundation.

Example Course Goal: By the end of the course, students will be able to apply fundamental theories in social psychology to real-world situations.


Taxonomies can be helpful in preparing to write course goals. These may include:

Well written course goals often have the following characteristics:

  • Descriptive and Learner-Centered: "What will learners be able to do, apply, connect, demonstrate as a result of their learning in the course?"
  • Measurable (for you or the learner): "How will you (or the learner) know when you have achieved this?"
  • Clear and understandable: "Will the learner know what this means?"
  • Appropriately general: "Is this an overarching goal appropriate to the completion of the course?"
  • Suited to the level of the course
  • Leading to authentic, real-world applications.

Circle question.pngReflection In designing your course goals, it may be helpful to ask yourself "how will students be different as a result of taking this class?" This will help you to focus on the learning (rather than on the topics you want to cover).

Learning Objectives

Learning objectives are typically related to specific content chunks or course modules. Learning activities typically flow from these objectives.

Writing good learning objectives can be helped with the use of a criteria. The S.M.A.R.T. criteria is often helpful. Using this criteria, learning objectives should be:

  • Specific: Tells the learner exactly what is expected.

Example: Learners will analyze a case study, identify the relevant social psychology theories at play,draw out examples from the study to support their answers and present their study to the class during the third week of the course.

  • Measurable: How will they and you know when the objective is achieved?

Example: identify theories, draw out examples to support their answers and present to the class. It's also helpful to think of this section of the criteria as motivating. Are the students choosing their own cases based on what interests them - or writing their own if they have an experience to share?

  • Action Oriented: Use words in your objective that indicate what learners will do.

Example: identify, draw out, support, present.

  • Relevant: Is the objective relevant to the overall course goals? Will it help students get closer to the overall goal?
  • Time-bound: It is useful to state exactly when students will need to demonstrate that they have achieved this objective.

Example: during the third week of the course.

Sample Course Goals & Learning Objectives

Carnegie-Mellon's Eberly Teaching Centre: Sample Learning Objectives

Circle question.pngReflection Goals relate to your destination, objectives are the steps you need to take in order to get there. In planning your course, have you defined the steps that are important for your learner to engage with in order to reach the destination you intend for them?