Faculty Development

Writing Learning Objectives

Learning objectives should reflect what you expect learners to achieve after your instruction. They let learners focus their priorities and keep educators focused and organized.

Learning objectives should be

  1. written from the perspective of the learner rather than the presenter (i.e., what the learner should be able to do as a result of participation in the activity, not what the educator intends to cover).
  2. specific and measureable. Use measurable verbs like those in the table below. Note: The following verbs are not measurable and should be avoided: appreciate, know, understand, learn, and believe.
  3. reflective of higher levels of thinking or doing, where possible. We have a tendency to use objectives that require only low-level cognitive functions of memorization and regurgitation (see Knowledge in Bloom's taxonomy below). Consider whether this is all you expect of the learner, and if not revise them.

Bloom’s (cognitive) taxonomy is a hierarchical model used to classify educational learning objectives into 6 levels of increasing cognitive complexity. Some consider the three higher levels as parallel rather than hierarchically ordered, though. In the 2001 revision of the model, Synthesis was changed to Create.


Level of thinking Level attributes   Examples of measurable verbs
Knowledge Exhibits previously learned material by recalling facts and basic concepts   define, list, name, label, choose, match, locate, identify, select, reproduce, state
Comprehension Demonstrates understanding of facts/ideas by organizing, comparing, interpreting, and describing.   describe, compare, summarize, explain, demonstrate, classify, interpret, convert, recognize, identify, restate, translate, generalize, rewrite, show, give examples
Application Solves problems by applying acquired knowledge   apply, solve, illustrate, develop, plan, construct, use, prepare, teach, collect, calculate, chart, interview, operate, simulate
Analysis Examines and deconstructs information into parts; makes inferences   analyze, categorize, simplify, distinguish, differentiate, relate, correlate, deduce, dissect, diagram, organize, outline
Synthesis Compiles information in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern   estimate, predict, discuss, elaborate, design, adapt, formulate, assemble, construct, compose, negotiate, hypothesize, develop, propose, devise, produce, collaborate
Evaluation Presents and defends opinions by making judgments about information   evaluate, criticize, defend, rate, appraise, support, prioritize, prove, judge, recommend, revise, assess, determine, measure, rank, validate


The text of an effective learning objective should ideally include three parts:

  1. Description of what the learner is expected to do (a measurable verb)
  2. Conditions (if any) under which the performance is expected to occur
  3. Criterion or standard of acceptable performance

Here are some examples of objectives that require higher order cognitive processes:

  1. Develop a differential diagnosis and initial management plan for vulvovaginitis presenting in the prepubertal child in the outpatient setting.
  2. Formulate a plan for discussing with families the relationship between dietary food intolerance and gastroesophageal reflux.
  3. Given a clinical scenario of a child who has had a spell, analyze features of the spell to generate a differential diagnosis and appropriate evaluation strategy.


Allyson Zazulia, M.D.

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