Learning Objectives

While written plans may seem like unnecessary paperwork, it is an essential step in the instructional process, especially for a new teacher. After all, if you don’t have an organized plan for instruction, you students won’t have an organized understanding of your topic. Also, if your objectives are not apparent to the students, the approach they must use for learning will not be apparent either.

Some samples of learning objectives:

1. Working from memory, the student will be able to write and spell correctly the names of at least eight presidents of this century.

2. Given a pencil line map of the world, the student will be able to identify all the continents by matching them with their names.

3. Using only a pencil and paper, the student will be able to calculate correctly a percentage in 9 out of 10 problems.

These are not learning objectives:

1. The student sill complete the work sheet on pronouns.

2. The student will work with a partner to discuss the motivation of the main character in last night’s reading homework.

3. The student will learn to appreciate the complexity of political solutions to rising crime rates.


Learning objectives are inherently testable. By the very way they are written, there ought to be some obvious way to determine if the student actually is able to perform the task. To that end, learning objectives often contain words like: write, calculate, solve, identify, match, compare, sort, list, or construct. The second three “objectives” are of little use since they don’t demand productive, demonstrable learning, although they may represent useful activities that would be part of a lesson. Note that words such as believe, appreciate, enjoy, or understand do not naturally lend themselves to testing.

None of this is to suggest that the school experience should only include those which lead to testable outcomes. Education would be hopelessly shallow if it ended with the learning of facts and skills. Equally important goals are the inculcation of values and the appreciation of the more aesthetic aspects of the human experience. After all, art and the humanities would be hollow, indeed, if reduced to facts and skills. Activities designed to foster cooperative behavior, museum trips, watching plays, reading or listening to stories solely for their emotional impact, or discussing values as they relate to interpersonal relation or society all play an essential role in education. However, they should only be part of your unit objectives which also include testable learning. I believe much of the dissatisfaction students have with school is that “they don’t teach us anything.” Kids need to feel that they have learned something for the time they spend with you, and facts and skills are identifiable. Even those who don’t want to learn will respect you if they can see you are trying to teach a body of knowledge. A teacher who simply directs a series of activities with no expectation of testable learning will have problems with misbehavior and disrespect.

Go to Tell Them What the Objectives Are

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