Writing Effective Learning Objectives

Dick and Carey Model


Northen Arizona University

Emi Kawasaki

  • How to Use This Book

  • What is a learning objective?

  • Three Components of Learning Objectives

  • Wording

  • Points to Keep in Mind

  • How do you feel?

  • Recommended Reading


This book should be used in a group of 2-4 people.  It is recommended that everyone brings his/her previous lesson plans which include learning objectives and goals.

The learning objective of this book is

Upon successful completion of the activities in this book, participants will be able to write effective learning objectives with all three componens (performance, condition, and criteria) using the recommended performance words.


Dick and Carey Model
Dick and Carey Model



A learning objectives describes the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that the instructor intends to produce in the learners as a result of his/her instruction.  A learning objectives is NOT a descprion of what the instructor will be doing. 

Activity 1

Discuss the following questions with other participants.

  • Do you think your current learning objectives are effective? Why or why not? 
  • What is the difference between learning objectives and goals?
  • How do learning objectives affect your instruction and students' learning?


A learning objective should contain:

  • Performance - a description of the measureable, observable behavior/attitude
    • Good :)
      • Be able to write alphabets
      • Be able to draw lines
    • Poor :(
      • Be able to understand chemistry.
      • Be able to appreciate music. 


  • Condition - a description of the circumstances under which the performance will be carried out 
    • Good :)
      • Using a metric ruler
      • Given a set of whole numbers


  • Criterion - a description of the desired or appropriate level of the performance, indicating mastery of the objective
    • Speed
      • in or under two hours
      • before March 1, 2013
    • Accuracy
      • within two inches of accuracy
      • to the nearest whole number 

Activity 2

  • Write down some of your actual learning objectives and share them with other participants.
  • Examine and identify the three components in your learning objectives.
  • Discuss how your objectives might be improved.
  • List a few skills, knowledge, and attitudes that you want to produce in your students upon completion of an instructional unit.

It is important to use words that clearly convey  your specific instrutional intent. Avoid using broad or vague terms that you might leave yourself or your students open to misinterpretation. Use the following word list for your learning objectives.

Activity 3

  • Draft learning objectives based on the skills you listed in Activity 2. Make sure you use the recommended words.
    • Skill(s) to be achieved 
      • Performance -
      • Condition -
      • Criteria -
Word List

When writing learning objectives, pay attention to the details.
  • Outcomes vs. ProcessRelate to intended outcomes, rather than the process for achieving them.
    • Poor :(
      • This course provides practice and feedback
      • To provide a lecture on World War II
  • Specific vs. General Be specific so that they will help you make instructional decisions.
    • Fuzzy :(
      • Be able to think clearly
      • Understand discords
  • Measurable vs. Unmeasurable - Describe tangible outcomes that can be observed.
    • Good
      • Within 2 minutes
      • All 26 alphabets
  • Students vs. Instructors - Describe the students' performance rather than the instructor's performance.
    • Good :)
      • Be able to read a metric ruler.
      • Multiply two digit numbers
Activity 4
  • Make sure each of your learning objectives contains the three components (performance, condition, and criteria) and addresses the four important issues above.
  • Share your learning objectives with other participants and give each other feedback.

Final activity
  • Tell us what you have learned from this course.
  • Tell us one thing that is not still very clear.
  • How will you use the skills you gained from this course?
  • How will your new learning objectives affect your instruction?

Systematic Desgin of Instruction (7th ed.)

Walter Dick
Lou Carey
James O. Carey


This classic book simply and clearly introduces readers to the fundamentals of instructional design and helps them learn the concepts and procedures for designing, developing, and evaluating instruction for all delivery formats. The new edition covers the impact of critical new technologies and the Internet. The book also addresses current design processes used in instructional settings and delivery systems across many curriculum and business areas including Internet-based distance education.

ISBN-10: 0205585566 • ISBN-13: 9780205585564

Source: Pearson



Lesson 6 - Writing Objectives. (n.d.). Lesson 6 - Writing Objectives. Retrieved February 1, 2013, from http://www.itma.vt.edu/modules/spring03/instrdes/lesson6.htm

Bloom's Taxonomy. (2013). Wikipedia. Retrived February 5, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloom's_Taxonomy