Senior Education Officer
July 3, 2012
By Shelley Chapman
When faculty design courses, one of the first things they usually do is decide what they want their students to learn. They craft their learning targets into learning “objectives” or “outcomes.” It is important that these statements be focused on what the student will learn rather than on what the teacher will do in the class.
The IDEA Learning Objectives
If you are using the IDEA Student Ratings of Instruction survey, you will need to decide how your targeted learning goals match the IDEA objectives, as I noted in the first blog entry in this series. The learning objectives you have written for your course are specific to the learning experience you have designed for your students. Your next step is to determine into which of the 12 general objectives your specific objectives would fit.
How many objectives should I select?
To begin this process, it is helpful to keep in mind that, as a rule of thumb, you may want to limit your selection to between 3-5 objectives. Although all 12 learning objectives sound like great learning goals for all students, it is unrealistic to expect that, in a single course, students could make significant progress on all or even most of them. As the FIF states at the top of the form above the objectives, try to “prioritize what you want students to learn by selecting no more than 3-5 objectives as ‘important’ or ‘essential’.” However, be true to your course. If you are teaching a course where you are targeting only one objective (such as perhaps in a lab experience), then it would be appropriate to select only one on the FIF. On the other hand, if you are teaching a capstone class in the major, and you have targeted many learning objectives, it would be appropriate for you to select more than five on the FIF.
Which objectives should I select?
How do you actually select which IDEA objectives are relevant (“important” or “essential”) to your course? I can think of four different approaches that might help you with this task. First, you can use a three-question guide to assist you in your decision-making. Ask yourself these three questions about each of the 12 IDEA objectives:
1. Is this a significant part of the course?
2. Do I do something specific to help the students accomplish this objective?
3. Does the student’s progress on this objective affect his or her grade?
If you answer “yes” to each of these questions regarding a particular objective, then you should rate that objective as either “essential” or “important.” Keep in mind that if you rate the objective as “Minor or No Importance,” you are not saying that the objective is unimportant. Instead, you are indicating that your course will not focus on that objective.
The second approach you might find useful is to think first about the very broad categories of the IDEA objectives. Below, you will see a table that shows how the 12 general IDEA learning objectives encompass six broad areas. Seeing how the 12 objectives fit into the six broad categories might help you as you think about which objectives are relevant to your course.
|6 Broad Categories||12 General Learing Objectives|
|Basic Cognitive Background||1. Gaining factual knowledge (terminology, classifications, methods, trends)
2. Learning fundamental principles, generalizations, or theories
|Application of Learning||3. Learning to apply course materials (to improve rational thinking, problem solving and decisions)
4. Developing specific skills, competencies and points of view needed by professionals in the field most closely related to this course
|Expressiveness||6. Developing creative capacities (writing, inventing, designing, performing in art, music, drama, etc.)
8. Developing skills in expressing oneself orally or in writing
|Intellectual Development||7. Gaining broader understanding and appreciation of intellectual-cultural activity (music, science, literature, etc.)
10. Developing a clearer understanding of, and commitment to, personal values
11. Learning to analyze and critically evaluate ideas, arguments, and points of view
|Lifelong Learning||9. Learning how to find and use resources for answering questions or solving problems
12. Acquiring an interest in learning more by asking questions and seeking answers
|Team Skills||5. Acquiring skills in working with others as a member of a team|
The third approach I would recommend is to meet with colleagues at your institution who are teaching the same course or courses in the same discipline. Compare your thoughts with theirs. Also, you may want to post your inquiry in the IDEA Help Community to see what your peers from around the country are selecting.
A fourth approach that might assist you in the categorization process is to check out a handy website called the Teaching Goals Inventory. Hosted by the University of Iowa, and based upon the classic text on Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross (1993), this interactive inventory is a quick exercise that will help you determine what types of objectives you are targeting in your class.
There are at least two important reasons you should carefully select the relevant objectives for your course. That is the topic of my next post.
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.