The establishment of learning goals is important on several levels. For one, it allows you to keep an eye on what is happening on a didactic level.[LM1] Furthermore, students need to know what is expected of them at the end of the semester – and more specifically in the exam. Learning goals must therefore be operationalized: You can only be certain that your students have learned something if you designate a specific, observable achievement, i.e. an ability, as that which your students should be able to exhibit by the end of the course. The occurrence or absence of this achievement also forms the basis for the students’ performance evaluations.
However, learning goals can differ substantially. At the university level, there are key goals that relate to every graduate’s interdisciplinary skills – critical thinking, ethical behavior, and teamwork. These goals are not achievable within one semester; rather they are the result of effort over years of study. There are also subject-specific key objectives that are tailored to graduates of a particular discipline. General goals, meanwhile, exist at the module level and can also be refined for individual courses. If you would like to be very specific, formulate precise goals for every individual course session.
The HRK recommends using the learning target taxonomies put forward by Bloom and the revised taxonomies of Krathwohl and Anderson when formulating learning goals. In spite of the (somewhat justified) criticism that these behavioristic taxonomies have received, they are good instruments for the formulation of learning objectives – in particular due to the multitude of verbs they provide.
It is important that you have a clear initial idea of what activities the students should be able to carry out by the end of the course. Only then should you consider which areas of learning are the most appropriate to train the students in these particular activities.
A learning objective thus always consists of three elements:
- A verb drawn from one of the learning taxonomy lists
- A learning topic to which the verb refers
- The context in which the action expressed by the verb is carried out