Creating effective learning goal statements

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After reading Chapter 4 of your Assessing Student Learning text, use Bloom’s Taxonomy (linked in the Resources below) develop 3–5 learning goals that you expect your current or future students (or trainees) to be able to achieve as a result of a learning experience, such as a course, program, activity, or field experience.

First, write a brief paragraph that summarizes the course, program, activity, or experience in which students or trainees will engage in learning. Then, using the structure and wording used for stating learning goals, as presented in the tutorial,(below) post 3–5 carefully constructed learning goals that students will be expected to achieve as a result of their learning experience. Keep in mind that each goal must be observable, measurable, and clearly stated. Be sure to use the action verbs presented in Bloom’s Taxonomy and avoid “fuzzy terms” (Suskie, 2018, pp. 47–48). Using and citing the readings for this unit, present a rationale for the specific learning goals that you develop using and citing the readings for this unit.

Briefly scan the following chapters.


Use Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide to read the following:

  • Chapter 4, “Learning Goals: Articulating What You Most Want Students to Learn,” pages 39–62.      
    • Pay particular attention to how you will apply “Characteristics of effective learning goals,” pages 46–48 (note how to avoid “fuzzy terms”). Note how this chapter refers to Bloom’s Taxonomy (page 52), which is provided in the resources and is to be used for developing your own learning goals in this course. Note also how the chapter includes tips for creating program goals (page 55) and institutional goals (pages 56–57).
  • Chapter 16, “Creating Effective Assignments,” pages 205–214.      
    • In this chapter, you will begin to consider the most effective means of determining how to measure students’ achievement of the learning goals.

Use the Internet to read the following:

Other information that can be helpful:

Start with creating observable, measurable, clearly stated outcomes of the knowledge, skills, or abilities that students or trainees will be expected to demonstrate by the end of a course, a program, or an experience. Study the following examples, noting the structure and wording commonly used for creating learning goals. Be ready to apply the structure and wording to the learning goals that you will begin developing in this unit for your own Assessment and Evaluation of Learning Plan.

Here are three examples of appropriate learning goals:

  1. Students will demonstrate the ability to analyze the characteristics of professional behavior.      
    • Note the italicized words. They are commonly used for such statements, but do we really need to include “demonstrate the ability to”? Consider whether the outcome will be the same if we state, “Students will be able to analyze the characteristics of professional behavior.”
  2. Students will be able to identify the purpose of strategic planning for an organization.      
    • Note the italicized words again. You might decide that you don’t really need “be able to” and just state:        
      • Students will identify the purpose of strategic planning for an organization.
  3. Career services trainees will design interview questions for client mock interviews.  

Now study the difference between appropriate and not-so-appropriate learning goals statements below. Note that many poorly stated goals fall into one of three categories of errors:

  1. Writing outcomes that are not clear or cannot be measured or observed. See the description of “fuzzy terms” on pages 47–48 in your Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide text:      
    • Students will demonstrate their understanding of the scientific method.
    • Students will be able to understand the purpose of strategic planning for an organization.
    • Students will learn about …
    • Students will become familiar with …
    • Students will demonstrate their knowledge of …
    • Students will gain an understanding of …
  2. Describing an activity or learning experience. See “Describe outcomes, not learning content, products, or activities” on page 48 in Assessing Student Learning: A Commonsense Guide:      
    • Students will write a 10-page research paper.
    • Students will attend tutoring services at least once weekly.
    • Students will participate actively in group discussions.
    • Students will give three presentations on genres of music from different historical periods.  
  3. Describing what will be done for students, not what they will do to demonstrate what they know and can do. It is tempting to focus on what we do for students, rather than on what the students will demonstrate that they know and can do as a result of what we have done for them. In each of the following statements, consider who is really doing an action:      
    • Students will be given instruction in basic grammar and writing skills.
    • Students will be provided with a map of the campus to locate student services offices.
    • Students will be empowered to take a leadership role in a campus organization.

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