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Advantages of using learning objectives

Advantages of using learning objectives

The writing of learning objectives focuses attention away from content and onto the students. This re-focusing often produces revisions in teaching methods.

  1. Managing instruction: Objectives may be used by instructors and students to sort and direct learners and learning activities. They may be used for systematic pre-testing, allowing into the course students who demonstrate the required pre-requisite behaviors, redirecting to remedial work those who lack the pre-requisites, skipping ahead those who already have acquired the behaviors that the unit is designed to teach.

  2. Managing learning: Whereas management of instruction implies that the control rests with the instructor, management of learning suggests a more active role by the student. Students can use objectives to guide their learning efforts -- choosing appropriate materials, reading selectively, etc. Objectives can also be used for self-evaluation which may direct the student's efforts (e.g., skipping ahead or reviewing).  When students are involved in determining objectives they develop an awareness of the difficulties in defining what it is they want to learn and of choosing from among equally attractive options.

  3. Planning instruction: Once you have developed learning objectives for a course you can more rationally sequence instruction, allot time to topics, assemble materials, prepare outlines and booklists, etc. Learning objectives can also be used as a guide to teaching, as when you plan different instructional methods for presenting various types of content based on the desired learning outcomes (e.g., small-group editing of reports to give students experience in evaluating content logic and correct usage). A re-examination of course content may result from a look at the learning objectives for the course. After comparing previous examinations with your newly developed learning objectives, you may discover that you have been testing materials which are illustrative, but which are not really essential to the students' mastery of the content/concepts.

  4. Enhancing learning: If the student has a set of learning objectives which provide information about the content to be learned and the way in which he/she will have to demonstrate adequate knowledge, that student can make more appropriate choices about study methods and content emphasis.

  5. Facilitating evaluation: Learning objectives can facilitate various evaluation activities, evaluating students, evaluating instruction, evaluating the curriculum. They can form the basis for grading or for determining levels of competence in a mastery learning system. They can also be used to demonstrate effective teaching by matching student learning, as measured by exams, etc., to the desired outcomes.

  6. Aiding in communication with others: There is a need to communicate learning objectives to others: between instructor and student, with TAs, with other instructors. For example, exchanging learning objectives within departments is the most specific way to communicate to one's colleagues what you really cover in your course. An objectives exchange might reduce redundancy in the curriculum.

  7. Designing or redesigning curriculum: If you intend to improve instruction in a particular course, you usually begin with the learning objectives for that course and program outcomes for the program and work backwards.

    • Sets of learning objectives for one course may be compared with the expected entry behaviors for the next course in the sequence. The two should interlock; where they do not, curriculum adjustments can be made.
    • Study of the existing curriculum can draw attention to redundancy and omissions that can lead to curriculum revision.
  8. Producing new insights: The process of clarifying objectives may produce major changes in those who engage in the effort. For example, instructors who spend time developing learning objectives are said to acquire increased understanding about what is a feasible goal. When more general goals are explicitly identified, many specific sub-goals emerge. Since it may not be possible to reach all the sub-goals, a hierarchy or "trade-off system" of goals must be produced.

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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