Tag Archives: Assessment

Writing Learning Objectives

Last week a colleague asked me if could recommend any resources to help out with writing objective statements. I had to admit right from the start that I, too, could use a refresher.

The Basics

It may not be the most glamorous part of the design process, but it is oh so important to nail down before moving on. The learning objectives serve to clarify the purpose of the experience you are about to create. Key questions to consider as you get started:

  1. How should the learner be changed after completing the lesson?  Will they know something they didn’t know before, be able to do something they weren’t able to do before?
  2. How will you know the change has taken place? This leads to how learning can and will be assessed. (Good to start thinking about this now.)
  3. At what level are you writing these objectives? Objectives can be written on multiple levels – program, course, module, lesson – and should be connected. Have higher-level objectives already been written?
  4. Do performance standards already exist that might guide your work? Depending on the context of the learning experience you are creating, and the content topic (think medical training, teacher education, etc.) there may be professional organizations or regulating agencies that provide standards that need to be met.

All too often the writing of learning objectives is rushed or left out completely resulting in a product that is not effective as intended – failing to provide the learners with what they need to achieve that ‘change’ that was required and expected.

Who writes, reviews, and approves learning objectives? A Subject Matter Expert may provide the learning objectives or the Instructional Designer may draft for review. Ideally, this is a collaborative process – there is a lot to consider in terms of expected outcomes, content, delivery, and assessment.

A Few Resources

  • A Quick Guide to Writing Learning Objectives – Big Dog Little Dog – There are a lot of nice posts on this site. This one provides templates and examples.
  • Writing Learning Objectives – The eLearning Coach – Another favorite blog. This post is Part 1 of 3 in a series.
  • Guide to Writing Learning Objectives – NERC – A comprehensive document with writing prompts, and lots of good and bad examples from a professional organization/industry perspective.
  • Action Words – There are a lot of these lists available online. This one seems to be one of the more comprehensive versions out there and is organized according to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Share your experiences!

What’s the most difficult part of writing learning objectives? Who on your team writes, reviews, and approves the learning objectives? What tips would you offer others asking for help?

Image credit: Mark Brannan, Flickr

Rubrics. Yes? No? Maybe…

Instructional design work is increasingly standardized. As this happens, data is collected to measure student learning outcomes and rubrics come into play. Lots of them. Instructors use these rubrics (charts with a rating scheme for each element of an assignment) to evaluate student work.

Rubrics provide a way in which the instructor can compare the quality of student work against a set of specific criteria. Ideally, if you have several sections of a course running, each with a different instructor, all will evaluate student work similarly using a standard rubric –  if two different instructors each evaluated Student A’s assignment using the same rubric, their individual evaluations would be the same.

There are pros and cons to the use of rubrics.

Rubrics can be helpful.

  • Rubrics encourage a more objective evaluation of a student’s work, reducing the possibility of comparing students to each other instead of the learning objectives.
  • Have you ever taken a course or submitted a paper and received a letter grade with no details about how that grade was determined? Rubrics can take some of the mystery away from the student’s perspective by clearly stating expectations making the grade seem less arbitrary.

Rubrics can be limiting.

  • Creating accurate ones that measure student learning of a specific outcome is not an easy thing to do. This process requires evaluation of the rubric itself to find out if it is reliable and valid.
  • The use of rubrics may result in less creativity from students working to check-the-box for each of the expectations presented in rubric categories and criteria.

Questions to consider:

  • Are rubrics always appropriate and effective? Think about types of assignments here – performance tasks, creative writing, etc. and context.
  • Who prepares the rubrics? I’ve experienced the hire of an assessment expert, assignment to instructional designer, and assignment to subject matter expert. Rubrics can also be found ready-made and there are online ‘rubric makers’.
  • What about reporting? Are rubric scores/ratings useful beyond the classroom to drive changes in curriculum at a higher level?

It could be argued that while rubrics can and do serve a real purpose, there is a point at which they can become too prescriptive. In this case, the focus becomes the measurement itself. There is a personal piece to learning, something more organic, where a student puts together knowledge and gains skill through his or her own unique set of experiences. Static rubrics can also reduce the ability of the instructors to assess student work from their unique perspectives and expertise. Difficult to capture these things via rating scale. What are your thoughts on pros and cons, your successes and challenges with rubrics?

Resources for your continued exploration of assessment and rubrics:

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