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While enduring understandings and overarching themes for instruction are absolutely essential to your planning, they are not enough to ensure that learning will actually happen. As with any goal, in order to be achieved an action plan needs to be developed. Learning objectives can be thought of as that action plan. They serve as benchmarks and clear measurable results that your learners will demonstrate on their path to achieving the enduring understandings.

Recall that learning goals should contain an action verb and a demonstrable outcome. By breaking down each learning goal, you will be able to plan lessons, resources, and assessments that are aligned to those key things that you actually want your learner to be able to do.

Suppose you are trying to plan instruction for the following learning goal from the Business Presentations class at the Tepper School of Business presented below.

Let's dissect the following learning objective:

Incorporate effective visual aid support (during a presentation).

We begin to break this learning outcome apart by thinking about two components:

  • Key pieces of knowledge learners will need to know

  • Key skills that learners will need to have

For example, learners will need to know:

  • What a visual aid is

  • A list of potential visual aids to choose from (bar charts, time series graphs, pie charts, images, videos, graphic organizers, etc.)

  • How the word “effective” is defined in this context

The Learner should be able to:

  • Use technology to create or curate appropriate visuals

  • Choose the type of visual aid that will be more effective

  • Add a visual to a presentation slide

Each bullet point suggests the type of instruction needed. The first bullet is straightforward. Perhaps, you as the instructor will simply provide a definition for a visual aid. It is easy to assess as well. Simply ask your learners to provide a definition for “visual aid”.

The second bullet requires more engagement. It is more than simply a definition. One possible learning activity might be: “research different types of visual aids and categorize them by the context in which they are used.” You could also give a lesson on each type of visual aid that you want the learners to be able to use. In each lesson, you might provide an explanation for the visual aid itself, have students discuss the definition and generate a list of examples. Then, you might present some examples of the visual aid being used effectively to support a claim while the learners look for patterns in its usage.

The third “need to know”, define “effective” in context, is also not just a simple definition since effective could have many interpretations. Since this is not an objective fact, your lesson cannot simply be a lecture on the word “effective.” This is a higher order objective and therefore requires a higher order task to understand. One such higher order task is “compare and contrast.” For example, learners could compare and contrast the similarities and differences between examples of “effective” and “ineffective” uses of visual aids.