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Course Outcomes and Instructional/Learning Objectives

Course outcomes are broad statements of the expected learning outcomes of the course or program.  For example, the Online Instructor Training course is designed to help instructors develop effective skills in online course development and teaching. Course outcomes or goals have multiple instructional/learning objectives.

Instructional or learning objectives are clearly written, specific statements of observable student behaviors that can be measured and contibute to achieving course outcomes. For example, Given the Online Course Evaluation Guidelines, participants will design an assessment strategy to support the achievement of learning objectives for your proposed course or training session.

Often instructional/learning objectives are statements that start with "At the end of this course, students will be able to" - followed by the objective. 

Instructional/learning objectives are important for many reasons for both the instructor and the student. Starting with well-defined and articulated instructional/learning objectives is the way in which the instructor provides a clear purpose for learning efforts.

Well-written instructional / learning objectives help:
Instructors Students
Plan and revise courses by organizing around specific areas of achievement Identify what you value and expect them to be able to do
Facilitate construction of instructional activities and assignments Determine the desired outcomes that will be measured
Plan the sequence of instruction, allocate time to topics, gather resources Evaluate their performance, as well as course interaction

How to write measurable objectives

A true instructional/learning objective is written so that it can be measured or assessed.  It focuses on what the student should be able to do at the end of the course.

Well-written instructional/learning objectives contain these elements:

  1. Conditions (a statement that descibes the conditions under which the behavior is to be preformed)
  2. Behavioral Verb (an action word that connotes an observable student behavior) 
  3. Criteria (a statement that specifies how well the student must perform the behavior)

When writing measurable objectives it is best to start with a basic understanding of Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom et al., 1956). 

The major concept of the taxonomy is that educational objectives can be arranged in a hierarchy that moves from less to more complex levels of knowledge.  The levels are successive; one level must be mastered before the next level can be reached. 

The original levels published by Bloom et al. (1956) were ordered as follows: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. In 2001 Anderson and Krathwohl published a revised version of Bloom's Taxonomy reflecting what has been learned since the first publication.  The revised levels are: Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, and Create.


Anderson, L.W., & Krathwohl (Eds.). (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman. 

Bloom, B., Englehart, M., Furst, E., Hill, W., & Krathwohl, D. (1956). Taxonomny of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York, Toranto: Longmans, Green.

This video with Kristin Koepke (11:32 minutes)walks you through the process and considerations to develop clear, measurable learning outcomes.