Crafting Meaningful and Measurable Learning Objectives
Medical education uses a range of terms—aims, learning outcomes, learning objectives, competencies—to describe what learners should achieve as a result of educational interventions. This can be confusing, but it is often important that end points are clearly defined before the learning takes place. It is like planning a journey—if you don’t know where you intend to go before you start, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be.
—McKimm, J., & Swanwick, T.
Learning objectives lay the foundation for a lesson. As the quote above alludes to, they (learning objectives) provide not only a starting point, but also a destination. When crafted meaningfully, learning objectives can provide nurse educators with measurable and observable behaviors. In addition, when communicated early, often, and clearly, learning objectives can better address student, staff, and patient learning needs.
Learning needs, or gaps in knowledge, range from concepts and attitudes to psychomotor skills. In addition, the learning needs of baccalaureate nursing students will differ greatly from the learning needs of doctoral nursing students. Likewise, the learning needs of cardiac patients will differ from those of diabetic patients. In effect, the learning experiences in which each audience engages must be carefully and meaningfully tailored towards their specific needs.
- Select an audience of learners (nursing students, nursing staff, or patients) that you are interested in teaching.
- Reflect on the diverse learning needs of this specific audience and select one to further investigate for your Discussion*.
- Review the article, Writing Learning Objectives that Help You Teach and Students Learn (Part 1), and the links to the Lesson Plan Tutorials, which are located in this week’s Learning Resources. Reflect on the examples and non-examples of action verbs. Then, consider the action verbs that you might select to address the identified learning need.
- Review the Crafting Learning Objectives document, which is located in this week’s Learning Resources. Then, craft at least two learning objectives—relevant to the learning need that you identified, which follow the format required of the Nursing Education specialization.
- Consider learning activities that might align to these learning objectives. For example, if the learning objective is to demonstrate the ability to accurately take a patient’s blood pressure, the activity should involve students practicing the process of blood pressure readings; if the learning objective is to compare learning theories, the activity may include a small group discussion.
- Consider how each activity could be used to meaningfully assess student, staff, or patient learning.
- Keeping the audience and learning need in mind, create a description of a learning activity that aligns to the objectives.
* Select an audience and learning need about which you are genuinely interested. You will keep this focus (audience, learning need, learning objectives) and expand on it over the next three Discussions.