As children we develop language skills by “learning” our alphabet. But how did we actually learn it? It’s an interesting concept when we really think about it. Many may say that they started by learning the letter a, then b, then c, and so on. But how did you learn your letters? It may be different for everyone, but in the end, we all had to accomplish the same things. We had to identify each letter—often by recognizing the shape. Then we had to recall the sounds associated with them when spoken. For letters that look similar in their lowercase forms, such as b, d, and p, we had to investigate it and remember how to distinguish between them. But then we learned how to make words using multiple letters and how to create sentences using multiple words and our minds basically imploded with the complexities of language. Sounds like a lot of work, right? It was. And it still is. We use the term “life learner” or “lifetime learner” because we continuously learn new skills or information. Each thing/concept that we attempt to “learn” is just as complex and simple as learning our ABC’s. But imagine that the alphabet flashcards were simply set down in front of you with very little direction or none at all. What was already a complicated task for our minds to understand, easily turns into something overwhelming.
To help someone understand exactly what is being asked of them, we create measurable objectives. In other words, an objective that is precise and clear; that explains what the person will be able to do when they have successfully completed their learning. These are things that we can assess and measure to determine if the student has mastered the materials. In Higher Education we call these “Learning Objectives” and we endeavor to make these objectives clear and precise for students to understand what they will be able to do when they have successfully completed the course. But how can we create these objectives? Well, much like our younger selves, let’s start with the ABCs.
A- Articulate with Active verbs. Learning objectives should include active verbs that indicate what students will be able to do when successfully completing the course. Verbs such as recognize, recall, explore, match, define…etc. all ask the student to be able to do a specific task with the materials they have gone over. We determine that the student has mastered the material when they can successfully do the objective or task. Did you successfully learn your alphabet? Parents and teachers determine this by assessing whether or not you can identify the letters when you see them and whether or not you can recall the sounds each letter makes when spoken.
B- Bloom’s Taxonomy. This was established in 1956 and specifically discusses three domains of learning. The domain we are interested in for measurable outcomes/objectives is the “Cognitive domain” which speaking directly to mental skills (knowledge). In Bloom’s Taxonomy, there are six main categories that fall in the cognitive domain: Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. Each of these categories is associated with several active verbs that can be helpful in creating measurable objectives.
C- Clear and Concise Concepts. Each measurable objective should be a clear and concise concept to avoid confusion. We all understand that a clear and concise sentence is easier to understand than one that rambles on. The same idea holds true for writing measurable objectives. Instructing someone to outline the major historical events that lead to event X is much easier for the student to grasp than telling them to “tell me what you learned about history leading up to event X”. One indicates what the student should be able to accomplish when they have successfully completed the course, while the other leaves them wondering what exactly it is that they were “supposed to have learned.”
Hopefully, after reading this blog post, you have a better understanding of measurable objectives. For more ideas of active verbs to use when writing measurable objectives or for more information about Bloom’s Taxonomy, please click here.