When your objective is to write learning objectives…

Several times over the last few weeks, I’ve had conversations with course directors and instructors about writing learning objectives.

Many people – from award-winning educators to rookies and everyone in between – find writing learning objectives a challenge. The typical advice of write out who will do what under what conditions is vague, so it’s often not very helpful.

“General” learning objectives – from our UGME Competency Framework, aka the Red Book* – are already assigned to your course, and possibly to your session by your course director.

The key task for instructors is to take these general objectives and annotate them with specific objectives for their sessions, including what level of learning, such as comprehension, application or analysis. (This is from something called “Bloom’s Taxonomy”, if you’re interested in the research behind this).

A natural starting point is: What do you want your learners to take away from your session?

Frequently the response is:

  •  “I want them to know….”
  •  “I want them to understand….”
  •  “I want them to be able to…”

Once you’ve wrestled something like this into sentences, I realize it’s disheartening to have someone like me come along and say, “Uh, no, that’s not up to scratch.”

What’s wrong with “know” and “understand”? Isn’t that exactly what we’d like our students to walk away with – knowledge, understanding, skills? Absolutely. The challenge with these so-called “bad objective verbs” is that we can’t measure them through assessment. How do we know they know?

That’s the starting point for writing a better learning objective. If you want to assess that students know something, how will you assess that?

For example, while we can’t readily assess if a learner “understands” a concept, we can assess whether they can “define”, “describe”, “analyze”, or “summarize” material.

Here’s my “secret” that I use all the time to write learning objectives – I can’t memorize anything to save my life, so I rely on what I informally call my Verb Cheat Sheet. The one I’ve used for many years was published by Washington Hospital Centre, Office of Continuing Medical Education. It list cognitive domains (levels) and suggests verbs for each one. There are many such lists available on the Internet if you search “learning objectives” (here’s another one that’s more colourful than my basic chart, below).

Screen shot 2017-01-16 at 2.43.06 PM

Well-written learning objectives can help learners focus on what material they need to learn and what level of mastery is expected. Well-written objectives can assist instructors in creating assessment questions by reminding you of the skills you want students to demonstrate.

Here’s my quick three step method to annotating your assigned objectives on your MEdTech Learning Event page with your learning-event specific objectives:

  1. Start with writing your know or understand statements: what do you want learners to know or understand after your session?
  2. Think about what level of understanding you want students to demonstrate and how you would measure that (scan the verb chart for ideas)
  3. Write a declarative sentence of your expectation of students’ abilities following your session. In your draft, start it off with “The learner will”. For example: The learner will identify the bones of the hand on a reference diagram. Your objective would be: “Identify the bones of the hand on a reference diagram.”

As a fourth step, feel free to email your draft objectives to me at theresa.suart@queensu.ca for review and assistance (if needed). I’m happy to help.

 


Table excerpted from Washington Hospital Center, Office of Continuing Medical Education’s “Behavioral Verbs for Writing Objectives in the Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor Domains” (no date).

* The “Red Book” got its name because for the first edition (we’re now on the fourth), the card stock used for the cover was red. Over time, everyone started calling it the “Red Book”.

Posted on

New Features on MEdTech

At the fall Curricular Leaders’ Retreat, Lynel Jackson highlighted four new and improved MEdTech features that can assist faculty in presenting information for students and in planning learning events and courses.

Adding Resources to Learning Events

Screen shot 2014-10-27 at 3.36.37 PM The EdTech team has completely redesigned the way resources (such as files, links, and quizzes) are added to the Learning Events and displayed to learners in Student View. This new view uses much of the information the EdTech team has collected for years during the upload process, like “Should this resource be considered optional or required?” and “When should this resource be used by the learner?” then displays it to learners in a clear and user-friendly timeline on the Learning Event page. The new format clearly shows what learners need to do to prepare for class, and also clearly marks what resources are required versus what is for information only.

In Development: In the future, these classifications will be used to provide learners with a checklist on their Dashboard, identifying all the activities they need to complete before classes for the week.

Curriculum Explorer

Screen shot 2014-10-27 at 3.36.46 PMThe EdTech team has enhanced MEdTech’s Curriculum Explorer tool which is now able to show not only where objectives (at any level) are mapped to Courses, and Learning Events, but also Gradebook Assessments. Faculty members and staff can use this tool to really explore the curriculum at all levels.

Reports

There are a number of new and enhanced reports – such as MCC Presentations by Course, Course Objectives by Events Tagged, and Learning Event Types by Course – that can assist in evaluating past course iterations as well as planning the next one. Curriculum coordinators can generate these reports for Course Directors, on request.

New interface to upload images, documents and videoScreen shot 2014-10-27 at 3.37.31 PM

One of the most frequently requested features by faculty has been the ability to easily upload images or documents, and embed video into rich text areas throughout the MEdTech platform.  With this Fall release, the team was pleased to announce this can now be done within any of the rich text areas.

To upload images or documents, click the “Browse Server” button from within the “Image” or “Link” icons. This will open your personal “My Files” storage area where you can upload images or documents from your local computer. Once you upload the image or document, clicking it will embed the image or document directly in the rich text area. You can also embed video from the Queen’s Streaming Server, YouTube, or Vimeo into any rich text area by clicking the “Embed Media” icon, and pasting in the “Embed Code”.

 

For questions on these updates and other aspects of MEdTech, reach the Education Technology team at medtech@queensu.ca

Posted on