If you are pondering how to write an objective for a lesson plan and thus a lesson you are on track to constructing an effective lesson. Merely considering your objective means that you are thinking about what it is that you want the students to get out of their time with you and how you will achieve that.

Learning objectives

A learning objective should be a clear, concise, succinct statement of what students should know, understand or be able to do by the end of the lesson after they have completed the activities that you have set. It should be measureable meaning that the students and the teacher should be able to see and measure if the student has met the objective or not. 

Using Bloom’s taxonomy

UTICA College created a list of measureable verbs (see ‘references’ below for the website) based on Bloom’s Taxonomy which are very useful for creating learning objectives. Bloom was an educator who, along with a team of other educators, divided cognitive skills into six categories: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. These categories are hierarchal so advanced courses should include using skills such as synthesis and evaluation, which are higher level processes, than more basic skills courses which may focus mainly on knowledge and comprehension.

The diagram below has Bloom’s categories of cognition at the centre, the measureable verbs aligned with the taxonomy (which can be used to write lesson objectives) in the middle section and the types of assessment which could be used as evidence for achieving the objectives in the outer circle. 

Some examples using Bloom’s taxonomy, verbs and assessment types

Looking at the diagram below, if we wanted our students to prove their ‘comprehension’ skills we could (by looking into the second concentric circle related to ‘comprehension’) have them ‘paraphrase’ an article by writing and presenting a ‘speech’ (mentioned in the outer circle of ‘assessment type’ which could be used as evidence to prove ‘comprehension’). 

In this case the learning objective would look something like this:

Students will demonstrate their comprehension of an article by paraphrasing and rewriting the text into a speech which will be presented to the class. 

(In this instance the way that the text is presented is not assessed, so no marks for looking at the audience or speaking slowly as this is not the objective of the learning, what is assessed is only the way that the speech is written and whether it shows comprehension of the article or not).

Similarly, looking to the diagram, if we wanted students to display their skills with ‘analysis’ when reading a novel we could have them ‘compare’ the actions of the main characters in a ‘report’.

The learning objective then could say:

Students will analyse the novel by comparing the actions of the three main characters in a report.If you think teaching English as a foreign language is for you, check out – https://www.theteflacademy.com/online-tefl-course

Starting with an objective

Beginning with the objective can be an effective way to begin lesson planning because it sets before you exactly what it is that you want your students to achieve. This can help you plan your lesson by backward design which is where you set the goal of learning and then think about what steps, backwards from that end goal, must be taken to get to where your students are at present. This is different to forward planning where you think about where your students are and take them forwards to the goal. In backward design you literally plan backwards, this method will show you exactly what steps are needed to have the students reach the set goal or objective from where they are currently. 

Backward design 

Wiggins and McTighe, two astute educators, developed the Understanding by Design Framework (2011) to help teachers design effective learning sequences for students from lesson plans and units of work to whole curriculum outlines. Two of the UbD key ideas are focussing teaching and assessing on learning and understanding and designing curriculum backwards from these ends.  

The 3 stages of the backward design approach

In stage 1 the question you should ask yourself is: At the end of this lesson/unit what should the students know, understand or be able to do?

This should result in you forming a lesson/unit objective and requires you to identify what exactly it is that you want the students to know or be able to do once they have completed the lesson/unit. 

In stage 2 you should ask: How can the students show that they have achieved the objective, what evidence will there be?

You should plan what will be used to assess what was learned in the lesson/unit. Think about what evidence will be used to prove that the students have understood what was taught (this can include such things as self-reflections).

In stage 3 you should design sequences of activities which can be used to help students to understand, learn the content/skill using activities that are of interest to them. Putting these then in order of where the students are, taking them to where you want them to end up to achieve the learning objective results in your lesson plan.

Conclusion

Lesson objectives should be clear statements which lay out exactly what students should be able to do by the end of the lesson. They can be a way for teachers and students to measure how successfully the students learned, how effectively the teacher taught or alternatively to plan the learning itself when using the effective backward design approach.