Ms Sue Bannister
Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
University of Western Australia
When you have mastered the material in this Guide, you should be able to
- write clear objectives which define the specific outcomes or competencies to be achieved in terms of skills, knowledge, attitudes or values,
- form the basis upon which to select or design instruction materials, content or teaching techniques,
- provide the basis for determining or assessing when the instruction purpose has been accomplished,
- provide a framework within which a learner can organize his or her efforts to complete the learning tasks.
Hint: well-written objectives should be clearly defined, observable, measurable and valid.
There are various ways of writing objectives. Besides referring to themes, you might also classify according to educational domains. The three groups of domains identified by educational psychologist, Benjamin Bloom are commonly used to group objectives and learning outcomes. These are:
- Cognitive domain – encompasses intellectual or thinking skills (Termed Knowledge Objectives)
- Psychomotor domain – encompasses physical skills or the performance of actions. (Termed Skills Objectives)
- Affective domain – encompasses attitudes and values (Termed Attitudes Objectives)
Levels of Objectives Writing
Within each Domain there are several levels you may wish to specify in your objectives writing. This will depend upon the extent of detail that is required in the curriculum and what you know about the learning style and readiness of the students.
In each Domain, Bloom identified several levels, each with a list of suitable verbs for describing that level in written objectives. The following table describes the cognitive domain, and levels are arranged from the least complex levels of thinking to the most complex levels of thinking.
|Level and Meaning||Use these words in written objectives to describe the associated cognitive level:|
|Knowledge: The remembering of previously learned material (recall of facts)||define, distinguish, identify, inquire, label, list, match, memorize, name, read, recall, recognize, relate, repeat, record, select|
|Comprehension: The ability to grasp the meaning of the knowledge being learned||associate, describe, differentiate, discuss, explain, extend, generalize, give examples, illustrate, infer, interpret locate, rearrange, reorder, restate, rewrite, summarize, transform, translate|
|Application: The ability to use learning materials in a new way||apply, calculate, choose, classify, demonstrate, develop, generalize, illustrate, operate, organize, practise, restructure, sketch, solve, transfer, use|
|Analysis: The ability to break material down into its parts so that its organizational structure may be understood||analyse, categorize, classify, compare, contrast, deduce, describe, detect, diagram, discriminate, differentiate, distinguish, experiment, group, inspect, point out, put into lists, question, sub-divide, test|
|Synthesis: The ability to combine previous experiences with new material to form a whole new structure||combine, compile, create, design, generate, integrate, modify, plan, produce, propose, solve|
|Evaluation: The ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose||appraise, assess, choose, compare, conclude, consider, criticize, evaluate, judge, measure, rate, score, select, support, validate, value|
Hint: Group together related Objectives
A variety of cognitive levels should be represented in the objectives.
Some objectives should deal with facts, some with concepts and some with the application of the information. Assuming that the objectives are well written, this will also lead to exam questions that address a variety of cognitive levels. Using Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Levels for grouping objectives, the following provides some examples of how you might use these for assessment purposes:
|Knowledge – Can students RECALL information?|
|Who, What, Where, When, How||Which one|
|Comprehension – Can students EXPLAIN ideas?|
|Explain||What are they saying|
|Describe in your own words||Explain what is happening|
|Inferential questions||Give an example|
|Summarise||State in 5 words|
|What would go better||Explain what is meant|
|Select the definition||What restriction would you add|
|Read the graph table||Translate|
|Condense this paragraph||Locate|
|What part doesn’t fit||Match|
|Application – Can students USE ideas?|
|What is this used for?||How would you use|
|Make a model||Tell what would happen|
|Construct how||Show how|
|How much would there be if…||Design a lesson|
|Choose the statements that don’t apply|
|Analysis – Do students SEE relationships?|
|Whole into parts||Analyse, Research, Survey|
|Group, Categorise, Compare and Contrast||What inconsistencies, fallacies|
|Arrange||What is the relationship|
|Chart||What is the function of|
|Reason for…||What does the author believe|
|Investigate||Make a distinction|
|Cause for||What motive is there|
|Conclude||State the point of view|
|Distinguish fact from fiction, fact and inference, fact from opinion, advantage from disadvantage, good from poor reason||What persuasive technique|
|Synthesis – Can students combine ideas and CREATE a new entity?|
|New ways of doing||Take risks|
|Consider the unexpected||Pose an alternative|
|Construct||How else would you|
|Solve the following||Imagine|
|Link concepts in an unusual and flexible way||Make|
|What if||Make a film|
|Invent||Propose an alternative|
|Evaluation – Can students make JUDGEMENTS and support them?|
|Evaluate quality, relevance, reliability, truth||Which is best|
|Accuracy and effectiveness||Choose and explain why|
|Find the errors||Editorialise|
|What fallacies, consistencies, inconsistencies appear|
|Which is more important, better, moral, appropriate, inappropriate, useful, clearer, suits the purpose, achieves the goal, logical, valid|
Stating Objectives clearly
In order for objectives to provide a useful basis for creating test questions, they must contain verbs that describe observable, measurable, achievable actions and specific levels of thinking, because these are things that can be tested. The words in the left of the table below are difficult to assess, to recognise whether the objective has been achieved.
Hint: Avoid using verbs that represent actions or concepts that are difficult to measure such as appreciate, be familiar with, believe, comprehend, enjoy, know, learn, master and understand
|Avoid words like…..||Use words like…..|
|Be familiar with||Evaluate|
|Be aware of||Design|
|Have a good grasp of||Explain|
|Have a knowledge of||Select|
|Realise the significance of||Distinguish|
|Be interested in||Solve|
Steps in writing objectives
Hint: Work backwards from existing data
- Review existing course aims, objectives, literature, course documents and reports to benchmark appropriate standards required for objectives writing
- Identify professional attributes of ideal graduating students (eg refer to professional bodies, Australian Medical Council Guidelines). Graduate attributes are used to decide appropriate learning outcomes for the course
- Deduce learning outcomes from desirable terminal practice-based behaviours implicit in graduate attributes
- Assign priority to the course themes
- Assign priority to learning levels (knowledge, skills, attitudes).
The knowledge domain for Medicine should be complete and comprehensive,(as is presented in the Medical Core Skills list) This means that knowledge content and skills content need to be carefully detailed.
- Agree on a basic educational philosophy which captures preferred teaching methodologies and assessment approaches
- Establish ways of measuring attainment of objectives/learning outcomes via the selection of appropriate assessment tools
- Review the appropriateness of objectives and their correlation with what is taught and assessed.
Checking the quality of objectives
- Do objectives reflect appropriately all the intended outcomes and do they sit well with the present state of knowledge of the students?
- Are they observable and measurable and the outcomes clearly defined to a specified standard or set of conditions?
- Are they attainable by intended learners and in the time available?
- Do they reflect the course and curriculum aims?
- define specific outcomes or competencies to be achieved in terms of skills, content mastery, attitudes or values
- form the basis upon which to select or design instruction materials, content or techniques
- provide the basis for determining or assessing when the instruction purpose has been accomplished
- provide a framework within which learners can organize their efforts to complete the learning tasks
Well written Objectives and Learning Outcomes:
- Are carefully worded to include standards, conditions and terms which must be met.
Criteria/standards: - defined levels of accuracy, quality, quantity, time constraints
- include special conditions that apply to the actual activity that the learner will perform
Performance: the learner will..(verb)…
- specify the degree of accuracy or proficiency that the learner must meet.
Conditions: given “x”…. without “y”
Choose assessment methods from the following categories to suit your desired objectives, learning outcomes and course content
|Demonstrating knowledge and understanding|
|Report||Critical incident analysis|
|Short answer questions||Concept mapping|
|Reflective case summary||Case based article|
|Videotaped consultation||Critical appraisal|
|Assessing critical thinking skills|
|Essay||Critical evaluation of the literature|
|Report||Critique on an issue|
|Critical incident analysis||Reflective journal writing|
|Assessing Peer feedback||Seminar presentation|
|Assessing problem solving skills|
|Simulation||Problem Based Learning (PBL)|
|Clinical assessment||Simulated patient interviews|
|Essay Question||Viva voce|
|Observed long case|
|Assessing performance of procedures and demonstrating techniques|
|Mastery performance tests||OSCE|
|Video skill assessment||Web-based skills assessment|
|Assessment of competence in simulation||Ward rating|
|Case History exercises||Special clinical skills exam|
|Clinical tutor evaluation||Laboratory reports|
|Observed long case||Case presentation|
|Clinical tutor assessment||Case assessment|
|Assessing ability to reflectively integrate learning into professional practice|
|Clinical tutor evaluation||Clinical experience record|
|Videotaped consultation||Reflective case summary|
|Case presentation||Clinical tutor rating|
|Assessing collaborative learning skills|
|Group projects where the group process and group outcomes are assessed (using criteria against which the group can assess itself and determine future, more effective ways of functioning)||Peer tutoring|
|Assessing research skills|
|Research assignment that is professionally relevant (and where students are assisted to develop the requisite skills)|
|Develop a database on a particular area||Literature review|
|Writing an annotated bibliography||Research paper|
|Case based article|
Hint: Testing experts recommend covering each objective with more than one assessment tool
- As you can see, some assessment methods can be used to assess more than one objective in the same activity.
- Some assessment methods can also cover more than one level of learning at the same time, depending upon how well the objective or learning outcome has been written.
The following grid shows how you might plan a Biology exam to include questions at the various cognitive levels. Exam content is then chosen to match the level.
|Content area||Recall / Recognition
No of questions at this level
|Skills Comprehension Application
No of questions at this level
|Critical Thinking Problem Solving
No of questions at this level
|Total Allocation of marks
No of questions at this level
You can also write multiple choice questions (MCQs) which measure at the various cognitive learning levels, such as in the following Biology example
Which of the following are raw materials or photosynthesis?
- Water, heat, sunlight
- Carbon dioxide, sunlight oxygen
- Water, carbon dioxide, sunlight
- Sunlight, oxygen, carbohydrates
- Water, carbon dioxide, carbohydrates
If living cells similar to those found on earth were found on another planet where there was no molecular oxygen, which cell part would most likely be absent?
- Cell membrane
Phenylketonuria (PKU) is an autosomal recessive condition. About one in every fifty Individuals is heterozygous for the gene but shows no symptoms of the disorder. If you select a symptom-free male and a symptom –free female at random, what is the probability that they would have a child afflicted with PKU?
- (.02)(.02)(.25) = 0.0001 = 0.01%, or about 1/10,000
- (.02)(.02) = 0.0004 = 0.04%, or about 1/2,500
- (1)(50)(0) = 100% = all
- (1)(50)(0) = 0 = none
- 1/50 = 2%, or 2/100
Mitochondria are called the powerhouses of the cell because they make energy available for cellular metabolism. Which of the following observations is most cogent in supporting this concept of mitochondrial function?
- ATP occurs in the mitochondria
- Mitochondria have a double membrane
- The enzymes of the Krebs cycle, and molecules required for terminal respiration, are found n mitochondria
- Mitochondria are found in almost all kinds of plant and animal cells
- Mitochondria abound in muscle tissue
Disregarding the relative feasibility of the following procedures, which of these lines of research is likely to provide us with the most valid and direct evidence as to revolutionary relations among different species?
- Analysis of the chemistry of stored food in female gametes
- Analysis of the form of the Krebs cycle
- Observation of the form and arrangement of the endoplasmic reticulum
- Comparison of details of the molecular structure of DNA
- Determination of the total protein in the cell