Why ‘Student Learning Objectives’?

So why is a curriculum development person commenting about learning objectives—the unit of planning that occurs at the individual lesson level? Usually you’d hear me going on about program goals and outcomes, and graduate attributes—the big picture! I wanted to highlight the importance of having clear, explicit learning objectives because it is all of these learning objectives that collectively create and contribute to an aligned and unified program of study. Paying attention to what happens in each lesson makes for a more successful learning journey in the long run.

There are good official, technical, and pedagogical reasons for having student learning objectives for each lesson and lab, but the main reason in my mind is to focus attention: your attention as the instructor and the attention of your students.

Whatever transpires in the class on any particular day has to be worth your valuable time and the valuable time of your students. Setting learning objectives helps make your time together the most meaningful it can be for students in the direction of the overall learning outcomes for the class.

Focused attention helps the brain learn more easily. And bluntly put, being explicit about the learning objectives for the lesson makes life easier for you (“Does this contribute or does it not?) and focuses the students’ attention to help maximize  learning—which also makes life easier for you.

To use a travel analogy, you know you want to get to your preferred destination within a certain time frame. Side roads can be rich and interesting adventures, but if these side roads result in dead ends too often or take you too far away from your target destination, you may not get where it is you had wanted to go. Learning objectives for each day keep you focused on the overall purpose for the trip you and the students enrolled in the class have decided to take together.

For more on learning objectives and some specific examples, check out: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/medical-school/tips/aims_objectives.html

From the GMCTE resources: http://www.usask.ca/gmcte/resources/teaching/planning

To explore this further—especially the relationship between student learning objectives and program goals and outcomes—contact the GMCTE.

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