Monday, December 18, 2023

Dr. Angela Cordle, Lecturer and Instructional Services Specialist in Biology, describes how she aligned her course assessments and content with module learning objectives that provide milestones for students as they master important course concepts and skills. Objectives are sequenced and build upon each other to create a story of learning throughout the semester.

Learning Objectives Tell the Story of a Semester

Define the plot with learning objectives

Stories capture our attention and imagination. What’s the story of your course? How does student learning progress from beginning, middle, to end? Learning objectives can be much more than a mandatory part of your syllabus. They can serve as plot points in the story of your course, and you can use them to guide your students to success. For example, is it clear to your students how course readings and learning activities prepare them to succeed on exams and projects? Clear and measurable weekly learning objectives show the connection between these course elements and student learning. They form a coherent narrative arc of learning in your course, with challenges and struggles that make it engaging and meaningful.

Build a course rhythm

Angela starts modules with a low-stakes quiz – with each question linked to one or more learning objectives. Students can retake the quiz to clear up any confusion. Next, students move onto harder worksheet problems that they first answer individually and then share their answers with classmates to workshop. Next, they submit their final answers as a group. The class has three units that follow this rhythm, each culminating in an exam. In tandem with this learning sequence student groups also work on a final project where they apply what they learned to create an instructional model on a current topic in genetics. The project is completed in stages throughout the semester. Angela’s focus on learning objectives enabled her to first define what she wants students to know and do - and then build a sequence of learning activities that help students.


"Now when I get questions from students, they are not asking if something is going to be on the test. Instead, they’re asking content-based questions like, “I’m not completely clear on applying the rules of probability, can you help?”. Why, yes! Yes, I can.”     – Angela Cordle


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Make your course more transparent with learning objectives

Do you spend a lot of time with students on basic course concepts? At the end of the semester, can they describe what they have learned and how they learned it? Dig into the Effective Instruction Guide for more strategies to improve clarity and transparency in your course feedback and assessments. When you are ready to work with us on your own course learning objectives, click the request a consultation button to get started.

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