Teaching and Learning Resources

Learning Objectives and Learning Outcomes

A learning objective is a statement of what students will be able to do when they have completed the learning. Learning objectives help students to focus the purpose of the learning and determine where it fits within the larger curriculum.  Learning objectives aid you as the instructor to determine the appropriate learning experience and method of assessment for your students.

Learning objectives are written from the perspective of the student and has three major components:

             1. A description of what the student will be able to do
             2. The conditions under which the student will perform the task.
             3. The criteria for evaluating student performance.

Goals of learning objectives:

  • Define specific outcomes or competencies to be achieved in terms of skill, content, mastery, attitudes or values.
  • Form the basis upon which to select or design instruction materials, content, or techniques.
  • Provide the basis for determining or assessing when the instruction purpose has been accomplished.
  • Provide a framework within which learners can organize their efforts to complete the learning tasks

Well-written learning objectives and learning outcomes:

  • Are carefully worded to include standards, conditions and terms which must be met.
  • Include special conditions that apply to the actual activity that the learner will perform.
  • Specify the degree of accuracy or proficiency that the learner must meet.

Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is a classification of learning objectives or goals that educators set for their students. Bloom’s taxonomy divides objectives into three domains (cognitive, affective and psychomotor) that are assumed to be a series of levels or prerequisites. Bloom’s goal is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains in order to create a more holistic learning experience.

A Checklist for Quality Objectives

  1. Do objectives reflect appropriately all the intended outcomes and do they sit well with present state of knowledge of the students?
  2. Are they observable and measurable and the outcomes clearly defined to a specified standard or set of conditions?
  3. Are they attainable by intended learners and in the time available?
  4. Do they reflect the course and curriculum aims?

Learning outcomes in comparison are considered to be specific objectives which provide greater detail about the learning that is expected to occur. Many instructors use these two terms interchangeably. Those who do make a distinction suggest that learning outcomes are a type of learning objective. For example, a learning objective may outline the material or disciplinary questions the instructor intends to cover. Learning outcomes focus more explicitly on what the student should know and realistically be able to do by the end of an assignment, activity, class, or course.

Related Resources
Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance - Outcomes based Education By Lori Goff.

What is a Course Learning Objective (LO)? From Teaching Support Services at the University of Guelph.

The University of Windsor has an excellent resource Learning Outcomes which defines objectives and outcomes, outlines the process of writing learning objectives and learning outcomes, and aligning outcomes to assessment.

Examples of Learning Outcomes from University of Toronto lists a number of examples of good learning outcomes and suggestions on how to write them.