Creating Objectives – Exploring My Process

Sorry this is a late post, but after a long weekend without Internet and coming home and updating my operating system, which I now regret doing, things did not run smoothly after that. I have had issues all week with my computer and Internet thanks to my operating system update that required other updates. My computer is finally running smoothly enough that I can do things without my computer constantly freezing up or shutting down on me. I guess that is an aspect of online learning; sometimes you are your own tech support.

I am no stranger to Bloom’s Taxonomy and Understanding By Design (UbD). Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning was new to me. I have had classes and practice writing objectives for years now. It does get easier with time and practice, but it will always be something to continue to work on throughout my career in education. We do not normally think about it, but we are writing objectives everyday of our lives because we all have goals we want to achieve. This helps me when I approach writing objectives because it reminds me it is a life skill and I need to model it to my students. Objectives are my thinking made visible and students need to see where we are going together. I typically write the objectives you see in a lesson plan, but then I always rework the objectives so that they are student friendly, meaning they will not follow the writing pattern I have been taught to follow for writing objectives. For example, my objective could be: After instruction students will demonstrate their knowledge of correct comma use by correcting sentences with comma errors. The student friendly objective would be: Practice correct comma use. They are simple and to the point. Student friendly objectives typically look more like a to do list. In a face-to-face setting I typically go over the objectives before starting a lesson. When I have forgotten to do this I immediately know because I get questions about why we are doing this or students are asking what we will be doing through the entire lesson. Objectives are just as important to students as they are to teachers. Objectives keep everyone on the same page. I would like to find a way to incorporate this into the online learning environment, maybe with a short video that explains the objectives for each lesson.

I tend to use Bloom’s Taxonomy because it is comprehensive and aligns with Alaska’s K-12 standards and its language. Bloom’s Taxonomy is also more measurable in terms of assessment than other taxonomies. Another taxonomy of shorts that I reference from time to time is Webb’s Depths of Knowledge (DOK), which is comparable to Bloom’s Taxonomy. There is a need to expand beyond Bloom’s Taxonomy and Fink (2013) describes the need here:

Any model that commands this kind of respect half a century later is extraordinary. However, as noted in Chapter One, individuals and organizations involved in higher education are expressing a need for important kinds of learning that do not emerge easily from the Bloom taxonomy, for example learning how to learn, leadership and interpersonal skills, ethics, communication skills, character, tolerance, and the ability to adapt to change. (34)

Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning and the UbD Six Facets of Understanding both have items that are not easy to assess and if they are assessed it is very subjective. I appreciate these items because it incorporates the human element, which does not easily fit into a hierarchy of cognitive levels. The thing to remember with taxonomies is that they are not as linear as they appear. There is overlap and many times more than one level is being used at the same time. When you incorporate the human elements of Fink’s (2013) Taxonomy of Significant Learning with the cognitive aspects of Bloom’s Taxonomy there are many interconnections. Usually what would be considered a low level cognitive activity can usually be easily connected to high level thinking and personal application. For example, I want students to expand their vocabulary while they read, but at the same time critically evaluate what they are reading and apply it to their own lives. More specifically I want students to understand the word euphemism and how the use of euphemisms in the book helps the community maintain peace. This then is to help provoke thoughts about the price of peace and personal evaluations of a student’s personal beliefs about peace.

This is why as a teacher I tend to lean towards Bloom’s Taxonomy and elements of the UbD Six Facets of Understanding. It is difficult for a teacher to objectively assess if a student has developed new feelings, caring, empathy, beliefs, values, etc. These changes in learning are not usually found in the Alaska K-12 State Standards and hence not assessed in the traditional sense. These types of learning are important and should not be neglected, but are hard to write into objectives that can be measured. I tend to write these items as goals or hopes for students to learn.

Below is my brainstorming web for my first attempt at objectives for my unit on The Giver. I used Inspiration to create the web of my thinking process.

Brainstorm for Objectives

As made evident from my objectives the final project for my unit is having students create a memoir. When designing performance tasks I like to use the GRASPS template from UbD. I like using this template because it is straight forward in explaining what students need to do and gives the task a real life feel making it more applicable and relevant to a student’s life. It is my hope by using the GRASPS template students will see how all the objectives fit together and work toward the ultimate goal of making them better readers, writers, and most importantly better learners.

  • G — Goal
  • R — Role
  • A — Audience
  • S — Situation
  • P — Product, Performance, and Purpose
  • S — Standards for Success


Bloom’s Taxonomy interactive chart

Fink, L. D. (2013).  Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. (Revised and updated ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

McTighe, J., & Wiggins, G. (2004). Understanding by design: Professional development workbook. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Webb, N. L. (2002). Depths of knowledge.

16 thoughts on “Creating Objectives – Exploring My Process

  1. lsowa

    Kelly, I really like the idea of student-friendly objectives, and found the organization of your concept map to be quite useful, something I may use as a model in the future. Thinking about crafting the learning objectives with assessment in mind takes some of the idealism out of the process, but incorporating those aspects into goals certainly does not diminish their importance. Do you find yourself feeling pressure to concentrate on certain aspects more than others that you would like to because of assessment? I’m curious about your experience with respect to this issue. I have found myself wishing I had more time to work on applications and extensions of material in content-heavy courses that are pre-requisites for upper level engineering courses. I sometimes wonder if using a flipped classroom approach would allow for extra time to include projects.

    1. Owen

      One way to approach this might be to do a sort of time accounting. Look at what you’re doing in class and how much time it takes vs. how much time you are expecting students to dedicate on their own. This is your expectation of their total time contribution. Then, you can proscribe tasks to where they fit best within that budget?

      Flipping the classroom can give more time for projects, you just have to be realistic and careful in your design that planned out of class work is actually performed and your overall time budget is realistic.

  2. AnneMarie Mattacchione

    I can see many good ideas in your writing reflection- I appreciate the idea of making student friendly learning objectives. I too, review the class learning objectives at the beginning of class. I also take the last 10 minutes of class and review them with the students again asking them to articulate the outcome. I find that students are more focused on the learning objectives in class and more easily have the answers at the end of class because I have helped them focus their attention. I also review the learning objectives from the prior class so there is a bit of a review and a correlation from one class to the next. This helps me see the integration of concepts, or lack of, from class to class. One idea I wanted to offer you concerning your concept map was to somehow directly link the coarse goals with the objectives- maybe by an arrow? That way I can see how you are facilitating the goals through objectives, learning and teaching activities and assessment. Your goals sound intriguing- makes me want to take your class:)

    1. Owen

      I like your idea of reviewing objectives before and at the end of class, and again at the beginning of the following session. This helps to build explicit cognitive connections. Solid pedagogy.

  3. Owen

    Oh no! Did you update to Yosemite? My own upgrade went well, but my daughter upgraded as well and there were some “issues” that took a while to resolve. Of course, as you said, now we’ve applied the update to the update and all is well again.

    Nice reflection piece, Kelly. I especially like your essential questions. I’ll probably be answering these in my head for the rest of the day.


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