Introduction: How to Write Learning Objectives

Learning objectives help you nail down precisely what you want your students to learn as a result of the activity or project they are going to do.

It's important that a learning objective be specific and limited to what you are doing in that particular project. If you're building a table, you might WANT your student to "learn carpentry" or even "how to make a table". But that's an awfully general subject, so be specific about what skills or knowledge your student will develop as a result of your project. 

Students will be able to make a table.

By building a table, students will be able to correctly use a measuring tape, miter saw, and proper safety equipment.

The second example includes the component skills involved in creating that table. Measurement, sawing, and safety are the attributes of table-building that comprise the learning objective in this example. There are a TON of possible component skills you could teach, but a good learning objective helps you stay on track while teaching a skill. It's specific and limited to the project at hand. Save your lofty goals for the series of lessons required to fully teach carpentry. For a single project, focus in on the component skills and knowledge someone WILL learn as a result of making it.

To do this with any project, you should answer the following questions:

Whom am I teaching?

What is the project I'd like to incorporate into my lessons?

What are the component skills required to complete the project? (measurement, sawing, safety, comparison with other tables, synthesizing a design, embellishing a design, etc.)

Which of those skills should they learn? (You can draw from state standards, your curricula, what you want your kid to learn before he goes to college, whatever.)

Some examples:

By making _____ (project), students will  __________ (verb) __________ (specific skill/knowledge).

By making (a table), students will (understand) (how to join two pieces of wood using dovetail joints).

By building a tabletop trebuchet, students will be able to recognize the design features of a common medieval siege weapon and explain how those features work together to launch a projectile.

*Pro tip: Use a learning taxonomy to select a strong verb. "Understand" is a little wishy-washy. Contrast, embellish, analyze, critique, create... these are high-level skills. Understanding is down there with recognition as a low-level skill. Recognizing the word "cartouche" is very different from using it in an analytical essay comparing ancient forms of writing.
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