What are Learning Goals?

These are the aims of students whose drive is a desire for the acquisition of knowledge, as well as self-improvement. They are also known as mastery goals. Typically, learning goals help identify skills, the knowledge, and capacities students in a particular class should achieve. Setting learning goals is crucial because having intentions and success criteria spelled out clearly helps in improving student achievement. Additionally, when students know how and why they should learn in particular ways, their sense of belonging, confidence, and retention will get a boost. This will be especially helpful for low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented students.

When writing learning goals for their courses, teachers should try answering these questions to decide what they want their students to know and be able to do after they complete the course:

  •         What are the most vital concepts (methods, ideas, approaches, perspectives, theories, other broad themes, etc.) that students should comprehend, spot, or describe at the end of the course?
  •         What questions should the students be capable of answering at the end of the course?
  •         What would constitute a “solid understanding,” and how would the same be evaluated? What lower-level information or facts would students need to master and retain as part of their bigger conceptual structuring of the content?
  •         What are the most significant skills students should develop and be capable of applying after finishing the course (problem-solving, quantitative analysis, critical thinking, etc.)?
  •         How can teachers help the students develop these skills and examine their mastery of them?
  •         Are there any affective objectives for the course, like students developing a love for the domain?

An example can make it more transparent. For students of a foreign language course, learning goals could include:

  •         demonstrating oral competence with adequate precision in vocabulary, pronunciation, and language fluency
  •         reading and translating texts in their language of study accurately
  •         producing written work that’s organized, substantive, and grammatically correct

Though learning goals can be classified differently, here are three categories that are used often:

  •         Small, activity-level goals: Usually, they address a particular knowledge or skill related to a small section of the course. These goals are extremely specific, narrow in focus, and can be assessed by a small-scale item (such as a quiz, an assignment, a question, or a debate).
  •         Medium, topic- or unit-level goals: They refer to a group of skills or more general knowledge related to a topic relevant to the course. These goals are moderately specific, slightly broader in focus compared to activity-level goals, and can be assessed by medium-scale items (e.g., a series of questions, assignments, or in-class activities).
  •         Larger, course-level goals: They are developed to look at the students’ overall success during the course. These goals are broad and emphasize skills that will be valuable at the departmental or career level. To assess these goals, large-scale items are used (such as term papers, cumulative labs, or oral presentations).

Though learning goals can be tricky to set, teachers can use them to inspire their students and prod in the right direction.   

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