Writing and Using Learning Objectives

Rebecca B. Orr, Melissa M. Csikari, Scott Freeman, Michael C. Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Learning objectives (LOs) are used to communicate the purpose of instruction. Done well, they convey the expectations that the instructor—and by extension, the academic field— has in terms of what students should know and be able to do after completing a course of study. As a result, they help students better understand course activities and increase student performance on assessments. LOs also serve as the foundation of course design, as they help structure classroom practices and define the focus of assessments. Understanding the research can improve and refine instructor and student use of LOs. This essay describes an online, evidence-based teaching guide published by CBE—Life Sciences Education (LSE) at http://lse.ascb.org/learning-objectives. The guide contains condensed summaries of key research findings organized by recommendations for writing and using LOs, summaries of and links to research articles and other resources, and actionable advice in the form of a checklist for instructors. In addition to describing key features of the guide, we also identify areas that warrant further empirical studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberfe3
JournalCBE life sciences education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Kristy Wilson for her guidance and support as consulting editor for this effort and Cynthia Brame and Adele Wolfson for their insightful feedback on this paper and the guide. This material is based upon work supported in part by the National Science Foundation under grant number DUE 201236 2. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 R. B. Orr et al.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.


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