You’ve just finished your first semester of university, and you’re looking for ways to improve your writing skills. You decide to take a class with a famous writer-turned-professor, and he tells you that you’re doing great but you need to work on your learning objectives. Learning objectives, or learning targets as they are often referred to, are the objectives you set for yourself as a student in a particular subject. You can use an SMART learning objective format, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
Here’s where you need help. How do you write your learning objectives so that they include everything you need to know about the topic? How can you ensure that your learning objectives are both measurable and timely? How do you write an objective that’s both achievable and realistic?
Luckily, we’re here to help. In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to write learning objectives that include how students learn so you can improve your writing and academic skills. Let’s get started.
How Do You Learn?
Before we start writing our objectives, it’s important to understand how we learn. There are four unique and interesting approaches to learning that we’ll discuss here.
1. Learning by Experimentation
Sometimes, we learn better when we’re not sure what we’re learning. This is especially true for scientists who want to discover the unknown. For example, when we learn about evolution, a good portion of the information imparted is through the process of trial and error. We start with a hypothesis, and then we test it through observation and experimentation. This is also a key learning approach in the physical sciences, such as chemistry and physics.
When we experiment with a new topic, we can usually predict what will happen. However, occasionally, something extraordinary occurs that forces us to revalue our original hypothesis. For example, you might discover that a chemical you thought would react with another chemical in a specific way actually interacts with it in an entirely different manner. In that case, you would need to completely revamp your original theory about how that chemical interacts with other chemicals.
2. Learning by Constructive Analysis
We’ve all been there. We’re sitting in a lecture or a seminar, listening to some genius expound on a topic we’re not familiar with, and all we can think is, “How much information can I process in this short amount of time?”
Unfortunately, short attention spans are the bane of the over-educated. Sadly, they’re often most at home in a lecture hall or on an educational video platform. However, there is a better way. Sometimes, we can learn more effectively through analyzing a problem rather than just describing it. This is an important skill to have as a university student. During your time at university, you’ll be faced with countless problems and questions. By bringing your learning tools (such as your smartphone or laptop) and researching the answers yourself, you’ll gain far more from your studies than just what the teacher is imparting.
3. Learning by Association
Have you ever heard of “rote learning”? This is when we learn best through repetition and practice. Whenever possible, we want to associate new information with something we already know. If you’ve ever tried to learn a language using “Rosetta Stone” or “Memrise”, you’ll know exactly what we mean. We want our memory to connect new information to existing knowledge, and that is precisely what we get when we use this learning technique.
For example, say you’re studying for an exam in advanced German. One of the questions on the exam is, “What is the capital of Germany?” After you’ve learned the answer, you might be tempted to write it down. But instead of just practicing by looking it up once, you’ll learn a lot more effectively if you repeat the information over and over again. The act of recalling the information and then connecting it to what you already know allows you to learn more in less time. Essentially, when we learn through association, we are reinforcing previously acquired knowledge while simultaneously acquiring new knowledge.
4. Learning by Compiling Resources
When we have a lot of information, we often can’t make sense of it all simply by listening to the lecture or reading the textbook. For these situations, we can usually rely on our friends who are also studying the subject matter. They can explain the key concepts in a way that is easy to understand and remember. If you’re struggling with a topic, it can be enormously helpful to talk it through with someone who has a deeper knowledge of the subject matter. This is a technique often used by tutors and professors, as well as some high school teachers.
As You Can Imagine, There Are Many Different Ways To Learn
Now that you know the different types of learning, it’s important to remember that there are many different ways to express it. Just because a certain approach to learning worked for someone doesn’t mean it will work for you. For example, if you’re more effective when you use visual aids, you might decide to use this approach for a particular subject.
As we’ve discussed, there are four unique approaches to learning. However, there are probably more than four. The key is to find the method that works best for you, and then use this approach consistently.
Measurable Learning Objectives
Once you’ve figured out how you learn, you can start to work on your learning objectives. We need to decide exactly what we want to learn and when we want to learn it. To do this, we’re going to break our existing objectives down into smaller, more manageable pieces. This makes our learning more precise and gives us something to work toward. It also allows us to track our progress. If we don’t have measurable learning objectives, it’s very difficult to know whether or not we’re on the right track.
How Should You Set Your Learning Objectives?
Just because you’ve decided that a certain approach to learning works best for you doesn’t mean that your professor agrees. In some cases, they might have a different perspective about how you should learn a particular subject. In those cases, you might need to find another way to learn the material or, at least, adjust your objectives.
Here are some general guidelines that you should follow when writing your learning objectives:
1. Be Specific
When we say “specific”, what we mean is that you should define exactly what you want to learn. Instead of saying, “I want to learn how to write a business plan,” you should write, “I want to learn how to write a business plan for
2. Measure Your Progress
Just because your objectives are specific and measurable doesn’t mean that they’re easy to achieve. After all, you’re a university student, and achieving your stated goals might not be easy. To ensure you’re tracking the right information, you’ll need to decide how you’re going to measure your progress. Once you’ve decided upon this, you can figure out what you need to do to achieve your goals.
For example, if we say that one of our learning objectives is to learn advanced German, how are we going to measure our progress? After all, “advanced German” is a pretty broad description. Do you mean, “I want to achieve advanced vocabulary,” or “I want to achieve a passing grade on my German final exam”?
The answer is, “It depends.” Normally, we would learn how to define our objectives in a way that is measurable. For example, let’s say we want to learn how to write a business plan for a startup company. Our objective might be, “I want to learn how to write a business plan that will convince investors to invest in my company.”
To prove that we’ve achieved our goal, we’ll need to look at two things: (1) How well do we know German? (2) How well does our business plan reflect the knowledge we’ve gained?
If the answer to both of these questions is “not very well,” then we haven’t achieved our goal. To put it simply, our business plan is probably not going to be very good.