Learning objective

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Learning objectives are statements that define the expected goal of a curriculum, course, lesson or activity in terms of demonstrable skills or knowledge that will be acquired by a student as a result of instruction. Learning objectives can be tied to competence maps Also known as : Instructional objectives, learning outcomes, learning goals.

Learning outputs, i.e. student productions are different. They allow follow-up (e.g. formative feedback) and measuring if learning objectives are met.

See also:


The definition of learning objectives is (or should be) the foundation of any instructional design. They are integral determining factor of strategies and Instructional design model and methods, pedagocial scenarios and lesson plans.

Defining learning objectives

Learning objectives when attained should be observable behaviours or actions.

Mesurement of learning outcomes is strongly influenced by behaviorist learning psychology and educational models, in particular Blooms taxonomy.

Criticism of this approach argue that some learning types, e.g. problem solving require more complex proof of learning than typical exam texts. Some of that criticism has been addressed by Krathwohl's Revision of Blooms's Taxononmy [1]. Other propositions were formulated by Jonassen, of which we present one version below. Finally, there is a strong relationship with competency-based education based on competence frameworks or maps.

Verbs for defining learning objectives

Words used to define learning objectives are often teacher centered and ambiguous.

E.g. Students will know the seven original member countries of the European Union and their capitals.

Formulations such as "Student will understand, comprehend, know" are problematic in that one cannot observe knowing or comprehension. Learning objectives should be formulated in a way that specifies how learning will be observed or measured and are thus intertwined with evaluation methods. Words that describe what the student will do to show that he or she understands are more useful.

E.g. Students will be able to list 5 countries in Europe and their capitals.

Verbs presented in the following table are lists of verbs that correspond to the cognitive domains within Bloom's Taxonomy from CyberCampus's Tips for writing performance-based objectives.

Verbs for defining learning objecitves according to Bloom's taxonomy

Source:Kemp, J.E., Morrison, G.R., & Ross, S.M. (1998). Designing effective instruction, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill

Jonassen and Tessmer taxonomy of learning outcomes

Jonassen and Tessmer (1996) created an Outcomes-Based Taxonomy for the Design,Evaluation, and Research of Instructional System. Tationale for this taxonomy was based on the observation that more traditional instructional design models do not include all possible learning outcomes. In particular, metacognitive aspects and higher order problem solving skills are missing. The authors used multiple sources, e.g. trainign and design textbooks, research on existing taxonomies, learning outcomes found in articles in instructional research journals, and texts in educational psychology.

Below we reproduce the table presented in a preprint that somehow got many years ago, since we cannot find the original. Since the Training Research Journal journal is probably dead since we cannot find any online trace, we assume that we could reproduce these rather large tables.







Cued propositional information

Declarative knowledge




Propositional information

Declarative knowledge




Acquiring bodies of information

Declarative knowledge

Paraphrase (gist)

Thematic fidelity


Information networking

Structural knowledge (declarative)

Relationships/ Similarity judgements

Correctness/ Consistency/ Completeness


Semantic mapping/ conceptual networking

Structural knowledge (conceptual)

Concept mapping

Completeness/ Embeddedness/ Integratedness


Structural mental models

Structural knowledge

Talk backs/ Pathfinder nets

Congruence with experts


Forming concepts

Cognitive components/ structural knowledge

Identifying/classifying New instances

Generalization discrimination


Reasoning from concepts

Cognitive components

Drawing conclusions, Recognizing entailments

Logic of inclusion/inference


Using procedures

Cognitive components

Performing procedures



Applying rules

Cognitive components

Demonstrating algorithms/ Procedures



Applying principles

Cognitive components

Drawing implications (cause, conclusion, results)



Complex procedures (convergent problem solving)

Cognitive components

Selecting/using cognitive com

p Effectiveness/efficiency of solution strategy


Identifying/ defining problem

Situated problem solving

Describing problem space

Absence of pre-defined solution/real problem


Decomposing problem/ Integrating cognitive components

Situated problem solving

Identifying issues/ operations/subproblems

Correct operations


Hypothesizing solutions

Situated problem solving

Generating hypotheses/ solution options



Evaluating solutions

Situated problem solving

Assessing hypotheses/ solution options

Congruence with problem space/elegance


Mental modeling

Knowledge complexes

Talk backs/teachbacks

Congruence with experts


Generating new interpretations

Ampliative skills

Stating/defending/ rationalizing

Process relevance


Constructing/ Applying arguments

Ampliative skills

Stating/defending/ rationalizing




Ampliative skills





Ampliative skills

Inferring from knowns/ drawing implications



Articulating content (prior knowledge)

Self knowledge

Explaining/differentiating/ integrating performance



Articulating sociocultural knowledge

Self knowledge

Explaining/differentiating/ integrating performance

Congruence of behavior wit



Articulating personal strategies (strategic knowledge)

Self knowledge (metacognition)

Explaining/think aloud

Congruence with work behavior


Articulating cognitive prejudices/ weaknesses

Reflective self knowledge

Explaining/differentiating/ integrating performance

Triangulation of personal/ social feedback


Assessing task difficulty

Executive control

Problem assessment/ think aloud



Goal setting

Executive control

Self report/think aloud

Problem/process relevance


Allocating cognitive resources

Executive control

Self report/think aloud

Problem/process relevance


Assessing prior knowledge

Executive control

Self report/think aloud

Problem/process relevance


Assessing progress/error checking

Executive control

Self report/think aloud

Process completion/think aloud


Exerting effort

Motivation (conation)

Observation/self report



Persisting on task (tenacity)

Motivation (conation)

Observation/self report

Time on task


Engaging intentionally (willingness)

Motivation (conation)

Observation/self report



Making choices


Choice behavior/attitude scale

Personal containment

"Class" is defined as a kind of learning type.

Construct Class


Differences from related constructs

Learning payoffs

Ampliative skills

Uses rules of logic and imagination to draw conclusions, explain implications, imagine possibilities.

Problem solving is acquisition of solution method or heuristics.

Ampliation is acquisition of information extension skills.

Learners can extend and integrate knowledge on their own. Can apply knowledge to novel situations.

Structural knowledge

A thematic set of propositions, images, concepts, or rules interconnected by various types of relationships.

Declarative knowledge, concepts and rules may involve the acquisition of individual outcomes without multiple relationships between them.

Learners can better recall and transfer acquired facts and skills. Improves troubleshooting skills. Facilitates ampliation (extension) of learning.


Uses reflection and self-examination skills to identify cognitive and affective strengths and weaknesses.

Executive control or learning strategies

Regulation of cognitive or affective states. Self-knowledge stresses awareness of them.

Allows learner to self-correct learning and performance. Removes emotional impediments. Develops self- regulation & distributed cognition (metacognition).

Situated problem solving

Emphasizes problem solving in authentic performance contexts. Identifies the suboutcomes of problem solving (identication, decomposition, etc.)

Complex procedures have a definable set of steps or solutions. Situated problem solving proceeds by heuristics with multiple “correct” solutions.

Facilitates problem solving transfer to workplace contexts Enables diagnosis of specific problem solving failures.

Executive control

Focuses upon controlling internal learning and problem solving processes.

Motivation focuses upon control of conative and affective states during learning and problem solving, not cognitive.

Develops problem solving efficiency. Improves teamwork and social learning.


Involves the willful manipulation of task attention. effort, and enthusiasm. Has distinct suboutcomes of willigness, persistence, and effort.

Attitudes are value-based and stable propensties to act or choose.

Motivation has will-based and transient states of feeling or exerting.

Enhances learning and performance effectiveness in all outcome domains. Develops self-regulated learning (metacognition).



Introductions for "Bloom"-type definitions

All of the following links offer similar advice. That doesn't mean that there are no alternatives. For example, in some pedagogies, the learning objectives also could be described in terms of a product that implicitly defines skills to be learned.



Cited with footnotes

  1. Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy: An Overview. Theory Into Practice, 41(4), 212–218. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip4104_2


  • Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, R. W., Cruikshank, K. A., Mayer, R. E., Pintrich, P. R., Raths, J. & Wittrock, M. C. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing. New York, NY: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc.
  • Bloom, B.S. (Ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The classification of educational goals: Handbook I, Cognitive Domain. New York ; Toronto: Longmans, Green.
  • Mager, R.F. (1984). Preparing instructional objectives. (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: David S. Lake.
  • Kraiger, K., Ford, J. K., & Salas, E. (1993). "Application of cognitive, skill-based, and affective theories of learning outcomes to new methods of training evaluation." Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 311-328.
  • McKeachie, W. J. (1999). Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research, and Theory for College and University Teachers (10thEdition). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.