Writing Learning Objectives

A learning objective or behavioral objective, if you prefer, is much more specific than a goal. The ideal learning objective has 3 parts

  1. A measurable verb
  2. The important condition (if any) under which the performance is to occur, and
  3. The criterion of acceptable performance.

Materials for Syllabi Evaluation


Frequently you will not see the criterion or the condition specified if they are obvious. However, sometimes the addition of the condition(s) and/or the criterion will clarify a learning objective.


By the end of the course, the student should be able to explain the historical evolution of health care delivery and finance in the US, including key elements of the system as related to costs, coverage, access, and quality of care.

By the end of the course, the student should be able to describe the constructs of each theory.

By the end of the course, the student should be able to identify the reasons for and ramifications of the high number of uninsured/underinsured in the US and describe what is (or is not) being done to address this issue.

Purposes of Objectives

  • By knowing where you intend to go, you increase the chances of you and the learner ending up there
  • Guides the teacher relative to the planning of instruction, delivery of instruction and evaluation of student achievement.
  • Guides the learner; helps him/her focus and set priorities.
  • Allows for analysis in terms of the levels of teaching and learning.
  • Shows colleagues and students what we value.
  • Guide for the learner relative to self-assessment.
  • Basis for analyzing the level of cognitive thinking we are expecting from the learner.
  • Makes teaching more focused and organized.
  • Provides models so that the students can write their own objectives and thus helps develop an important life long learning skill; the setting of objectives.

Common Mistakes

Verbs such as “know” and “understand” are vague. Avoid these words and use action verbs. “Understanding” can have a myriad of meanings and it can be difficult to evaluate whether a learner “understands” a concept. Make sure that the objective is focused on what the student is supposed to do, rather than the instructor.

Click here (PDF) for a list of suggested verbs to use in creating educational objectives.

Additional Resources Tutorial: Understanding Objectives (SDSU.edu)