How to Write Learning Objectives




About: I'm an English teacher and former Instructables staff member.
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.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

The Teacher Contest

Participated in the
The Teacher Contest

Be the First to Share


    • Book Character Costume Challenge

      Book Character Costume Challenge
    • Made with Math Contest

      Made with Math Contest
    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge

    7 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    We instruct tranee teachers to think, what am I teaching and to look at the basis of the learning such as explain levers.... What tool are appropriate to use with the materials to be cut and what are the properties of the materials rather than just focusing on the skills. Don't get me wrong skills are important but learning and understanding is just as important.

    Love the site. In the UK all students form the age of 12 to 14 study Design Technology which involves making and designing in several material areas from wood/metal and electronics to food and textiles and can opt to study an exam in D&T from 14 to 16


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you! I referenced this Instructable numerous times as I worked on my entries for the teacher contest. Good luck yourself!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for this Instructable! I hope more people will look at this and enter.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Quick grammatical correction: "Who am I teaching?" should be "Whom am I teaching?" as it is the object of the sentence, not the subject, so "whom" is used. :-)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    A little context first (I oversee teaching and learning at a college): I use the word "competency" to describe a high-level learning outcome. A course might have six or seven competencies; each competency will be achieved through the mastery of 3 to 5 learning objectives.

    I'd note a couple of things :

    1. Keep learning objectives measurable and observable. For that reason, I'd take issue with "understand" as a verb since you can't measure understanding, just the products of it. Understanding happens within the brain.

    2, We stress to faculty members that learning objectives (and higher-level outcomes like competencies) should be focused on a single behavior. In our system, we'd break out the "recognize" and "explain" parts into two different learning objectives.

    Good job. Nice to see this kind of instructable.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Learning objectives, I feel, are not only useful for the professor to outline his or her daily lectures, but also serve an important organizational aspect for student's work too. I can't tell you how many times I made a list of important questions for myself to help organize for an exam.