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Objectives and Learning Outcomes

Tips marked with an * indicates that the tip is consistent with learnng-centered teaching

Objectives and Learning Outcomes


*Using appropriate verbs to describe student learning goals

Dee Fink's new book, Creating Significant Learning Experiences has a great taxonomy of different kinds of significant learning. If you want students to achieve learning in the domains (the major aspects of his taxonomy) on the left use a verb on the right for your learning goals:

domain learning goal verb

  • fundamental knowledge understand, identify application critique, solve, assess, judge, analyze, create, coordinate, etc.
  • integrate connect, relate, compare, identify the interactions, similarities, etc.
  • personal dimension come to see self as, interact with others regarding, decide to become caring get excited about, involved with value
  • learning how to learn set a learning agenda, identify sources of information and frame useful questions

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*Gathering evidence of student learning outcomes

Middle States has told us that we must develop statements of learning outcomes for every program and for every course. Now while you are grading your papers, tests, etc. make a few extra copies of these student products to show that you have achieved the learning outcomes desired for your courses. Remember a learning outcome should be more than just knowledge

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*Making explicit our expectations for students

We often assume that students know what we expect from them. Students may not have such a clear idea of their expectations. Therefore, be as explicit as possible in your syllabi about your expectations for students. For example, if you want students to take responsibility for their own learning, state that and state what they and you will do to help them reach this goal.

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*Reviewing your courses to improve them and help students to reach the learning goals

As you organize your files on each course that you teach, consider how well your students meet the goals of the course especially those goals that go beyond mastering factual information. Were your students able to demonstrate their problems solving, evaluation and integration, self-directed learning skills? Perhaps you need to better align your objectives for the course with how students spend their time in class and on assignments and how you evaluate them for the students to meet the greater objectives.

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Stating goals for a course

When you state goals for a course, state them in terms of what you expect the student to be able to do at the end of the course. Think about what you do as a professional and then how can you translate that into what you expect students to be able to do at various levels of competency. Goals state this way should logically lead you to planning how and what to teach, how the students will engage in the material and how you will assess the students.

These type of goals can be used for a syllabus for students, for a course approval process and for accreditation or program evaluation purposes.

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*Making sure students confront and overcome misconceptions

Students need to confront their own misconceptions to really understand your discipline. These misconceptions come in the form of lay knowledge, stereotypes or where the common sense is not backed by science or evidence. Giving students the opportunity to confront these misconceptions have implications for course planning, in terms of what you ask the students to do, how you teach the course and assessments. For example, you could ask students on final exams to explain principles that are often misunderstood or to describe a misconception that they had and the more accurate explanation.

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Gathering baseline data if you are thinking of doing any scholarship of teaching and learning

Many faculty talk to me about doing some scholarship of teaching and learning after they have implemented an innovation or once they feel a course is going well. This leads to a problem in doing an assessment or collecting pre and post data, in that you cannot go back and find out what the students knew before the course. Therefore, if you are planning to do any scholarship of teaching and learning on a course or want to determine how much students improved on a specific component, you need to collect some baseline data as you begin the course.

Think of a characteristic that you want to measure students' improvement or growth. How can you quickly assess students on this characteristic? Some suggestions may be to interpret a complex table, asking students to do a proof, analyze a paragraph of text or reading, diagram a concept or develop a flowchart. At the end of the semester you can ask students to do the same thing or something very similar and compare their scores. Then you have pre and post measure.

The Angelo and Cross book on Classroom Assessment Techniques have many ideas of what you can assess quickly and then how to analyze the responses. (I have multiple copies of that book)

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Making experiential learning more meaningful

Many of us are engaging in experiential learning in our regular classroom activities, or in larger blocks of time devoted to experiential activities. Further, the Millennial generation of current students seem to respond well to this type of learning. If you engage in experiential learning, try to use a learning cycle to guide how you plan students' time. First your goals should determine what experiential activities the students do. These experiential activities should be purposeful, participatory, interactive and sequenced. After the experiential activity the students need time to process and reflect on their observations. Then you want to help the students make generalizations from the activity to concepts, or discuss somewhat. Next, the students should discuss the application of what they learned to the real world or to the other experiences. The later steps of debriefing and reflecting cannot be shortchanged. It is during the later steps that you can determined what the students really get of the experience and help all of them to learn more.

These ideas come from Shari Willis and Richard Fopeano of Rowan University.

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