Designing Courses – Setting Goals, Outcomes and Objectives

beginWe have all heard that statement. It applies to so many areas of our lives, retirement, careers, marriage, school, grocery shopping.  Who has gone to the store without knowing what you are planning to cook for the week, only to make several more trips each day to get another ingredient.


Beginning with the end in mind is an essential part of education. Regardless of how students are being educated, the best results occur when there is a plan in mind.  One instructional design method, first introduced by Grant Wiggins and Jay Mc Tighe (Understanding Design) suggest the best curriculum designs begin with the desired outcomes or standards. Next a designer would determine assessments that would demonstrate mastery of the outcome.  Once the assessments have been determines, activities and instructional strategies can be orchestrated that would help the learner construct and organize information in order to successfully complete the assessment.


Any teacher knows that it is easy to just open the curriculum and follow the path that the author has developed. Perhaps the author has implemented the backwards design principle, and the path can be gingerly followed. However, when looking to personalize and differentiate instruction it is important to consider the goals and learning objectives for each student. This is not to say, ignore the given curriculum, but rather use the curriculum as the activities or assessments to reach the desired outcomes and supplement with other resources to achieve the outcomes.


When beginning to plan a course of study, first begin with a goal. A goal is a single sentence that describes the overarching purpose of the course.  


2009 Flicr Created by Doug
2009 Flicr
Created by Doug

For example, the goal of a course might be: The participants in the course will develop and deliver quality virtual blended courses for students of Innovative Education Management Schools. Learning outcomes are still broad, and generally there will be 6 to 10 for a semester course. One learning outcome for this course is a blend  of multiple iNocal Online teaching standards: Participants will design an organized course with clear expectations, goals, objectives, outcomes and use data to modify virtual synchronous instruction to meet the diverse needs of students. One key component for writing a learning objective is the verb. The verb should convey exactly what the learner should be able to accomplish as an indication they have mastered the content to be delivered. The verbs should be active and explicit. Larry Ferlazzo wrote an article and uses a Bloom’s taxonomy image with appropriate verbs, that will help any provider of instruction to focus  on learning outcomes and objects that promote higher

order thinking processes and assessments that promote learning.