Defining clear learning objectives is a challenging first step when creating a course. Viewed as the backbone of many educational strategies, Bloom’s taxonomy is a teaching tool that helps you design a course based on the outcomes you want to achieve. By providing a clear focus, both the teaching and the learning paths become more coherent and easier to envision. Let’s take a look at a few tips on how we can use Bloom’s taxonomy in practice.

What is Bloom’s taxonomy?

Infographic of Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchical categorization of learning objectives. As such, it classifies the types of knowledge, skills, and abilities students should acquire through instruction and is organized by level of abstraction from lower-order to higher-order thinking skills.

  1. Remember (list, name, state, recognize, recall, label, match, locate, etc.)
  2. Understand (describe, explain, summarize, etc.)
  3. Apply (solve, calculate, use, demonstrate, produce, illustrate, etc.)
  4. Analyze (analyze, categorize, compare, contrast, discern, etc.)
  5. Evaluate (verify, criticize, conclude, evaluate, determine, etc.)
  6. Create (assemble, design, develop, formulate, construct, model, etc.)

What are learning objectives and why do they matter?

Learning objectives are the goals you want your students to achieve by the end of your course. Written as statements of observable and measurable behaviours, learning objectives are set at the course level and broken down by week or lesson. They represent the bedrock of effective course development and must, therefore, correspond with your content, teaching, and evaluation strategies.

How do you write clear learning objectives?

  • Complete each statement as if you are talking to your students. You may find the following template helpful:

By the end of this (course/week/lesson), you will be able to: (state an observable and measurable action students must be able to perform to pass the course here); (list more actions until you have covered everything students will be evaluated on).

  • Refer to Bloom’s revised taxonomy and categories of behaviours to identify accurate action verbs for each of your learning objectives.
  • Start your learning objectives with action verbs (e.g., list, identify, recall, describe, explain, use, analyze, solve, assess, create, etc.).
  • Verify that your learning objectives are specific, realistic, observable, and measurable behaviours that students will be assessed on to pass the course.
  • Make sure you have one set of objectives for the course and another set of sub-objectives for each lesson.

How NOT to write learning objectives

Writing clear learning objectives can take practice. Here are some examples of incorrectly written objectives, the reasons they are problematic, and suggested alternatives.

Problematic objective Reason Alternatives
Understand the fundamental principles of X Not observable.

How can you measure your students’ level of understanding without behaviour that demonstrates this?

  • Describe the fundamental principles of X
  • Explain the fundamental principles of X
  • Recognize the fundamental principles of X in action
  • Apply the fundamental principles of X to solve problems
Explore the topic of X Not specific or measurable.

How do you evaluate whether your students explored the topic in sufficient depth and with academic rigour?

  • Describe the historical shifts and contemporary views in the literature on topic X
  • Synthesize the research on X in the academic literature
  • Compare divergent perspectives on X in the literature or media
Know the factors that affect X Not observable or measurable.

How do you evaluate whether they know?

  • List the factors that affect X
  • Describe how factors A, B and C affect X
Reflect on the importance of X Not observable or precise.

How can you tell that they reflected on the topic?

  • Explain the importance of X
  • Discuss the importance of X
Write an effective academic paper… Not specifically defined.

What makes an academic paper effective?

  • Write an academic research proposal
  • Justify your perspective by constructing logical arguments and citing relevant credible academic sources

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