Why write learning goals?
Having good learning goals (also called "learning objectives" or "learning outcomes") is key to taking an evidence-based approach to education. This means faculty members laying out learning goals for the programs and individual courses in operational terms of what students should be able to do if they learned what the departmental faculty would like them to. These goals should include EVERYTHING the faculty hope students will learn, from concepts to vocabulary to specialized skills to habits of mind. Establishing clear goals informs the design of curriculum, teaching, and evaluation methods.
Creating and Using Learning Goals
This document briefly describes the process and benefits of writing learning goals. (2 pages)
A 2-pager on promoting course alignment by developing a suite of questions targeting a learning goal that can be used in different settings to measure student learning. Prepared by Françoise Bentley and Teresa Foley, Integrative Physiology Dept., University of Colorado Boulder.
Resources for workshops on learning goals are available on our Workshops and Training page.
CWSEI and CU-SEI Articles on Learning Goals
Beth Simon, STLF, UBC Computer Science and Jared Taylor, STLF, UBC Life Sciences, conducted a study of student and faculty perceptions of the usefulness of learning goals (published in the Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov/Dec 2009).
Michelle Smith (Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology, CU Boulder) and Katherine Perkins (Physics, CU Boulder) describe the characteristics of good learning goals and the benefits of creating and using them (published in Microbiology Australia, March 2010).
Stephanie Chasteen, Katherine Perkins, Paul Beale, Steven Pollock, & Carl Wieman (Physics, CU), Journal of College Science Teaching, Vol. 40, pp. 24-30 (2011).
Rachel Pepper, Stephanie Chasteen, Steven Pollock, & Katherine Perkins (Physics, CU), 2011 Physics Education Research Conference (PERC) Proceedings, Vol. 1413, pp. 291-294 (2012).
Learning Goals Examples
Learning Goals/Objectives Examples
Good examples of learning goals — developed by departments involved in the Science Education Initiatives at UBC and the University of Colorado [Chemistry, Computer Science, Geological Sciences, Life Sciences, Physics, and Statistics].
Learning Goals — Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department (EBIO, CU Boulder)
These goals describe what EBIO majors should be able to do and know upon graduation. There is a set of 12 central goals in three areas: metacognitive, process, and content. The faculty developed unique hub-and-spoke diagrams to show the relationships between central goals and subgoals, and are in the process of visualizing how individual courses align to these diagrams. Here is the result for one course: learning goals for EBIO-3080: Evolutionary Biology
Learning Goals - Computer Science
Learning goals developed for 5 UBC Computer Science courses.
Learning Goals – Introduction to Modern Physics
This is a complete set of learning goals for Physics 250, Introduction to Modern Physics, a 2nd year course for students in the Engineering Physics program at UBC. These learning goals were compiled by Louis Deslauriers and Carl Wieman.
Learning Goals – Upper Division Electricity & Magnetism (CU Boulder)
This is a complete set of learning goals for Physics 3310, Principles of Electricity and Magnetism 1, a 3rd year course primarily for students majoring in physics at the University of Colorado – Boulder. These learning goals were compiled by Steve Pollock & Stephanie Chasteen with intensive input from many faculty in the Physics Department. People from other departments have commented that the course scale learning goals are broadly relevant and could be adapted to many other fields.
Learning Goals – Introductory Physics Lab (Cornell)
A set of learning objectives (goals) developed by Natasha Holmes for the intro Physics lab sequence at Cornell University. Includes detail for 5 course-wide learning objectives: 1. Collect data and revise an experimental procedure iteratively and reflectively, 2. Evaluate the process and outcomes of an experiment quantitatively and qualitatively, 3. Extend the scope of an investigation whether or not results come out as expected, 4. Communicate the process and outcomes of an experiment, and 5. Conduct an experiment collaboratively and ethically.
The UBC Computer Science Department Experience Note: most of this is very relevant to other departments
Developing Learning Goals 101
How to Develop Learning Goals for an Established Course: The Computer Science Model. A document that Beth Simon put together that describes the successful process that the UBC Computer Science Department went through to establish learning goals in multiple courses.
Tracking Changing Learning Goals - Steve Wolfman's experience (1-page version, 3 page version)
Account written by Steve Wolfman on the trajectory they went through in developing learning goals for CPSC 101.
A Glimpse into the Process of Creating Learning Goals
Script of a role-play discussion between Steve Wolfman and STLF Beth Simon. It attempts to re-enact and give the feel for the process used in the UBC Computer Science Department to create learning goals for their courses. They often started by looking at an exam question previously used in the class – and used this to stimulate discussion and refinement of the actual goals faculty had for students taking the course. The discussion is modeled from an exam question used in CPSC 101 (a course for non-majors) in Summer 2006.
Below is the complete catalogue of site resources on Learning Goals if you want to browse further.