Articulating Course Aims and Objectives

Effective course design begins with the question, what do I want my students to be able to do or produce by the end of my course?

Learning goals, or course goals, are student-centered--they begin with what outcome you and your students will see in themselves by taking your course. As a result, they should be measurable and specific, so you can assess whether the goals have been met. They should also be relevant and approachable for your students. Your goals might involve content but they also might involve academic skills (e.g. critical thinking, data analysis or visualization, safe lab procedures, problem solving), social skills (collaboration and team work or discussion skills), or attention to ethics in certain fields.

In answering the above question, you will articulate course aims and objectives that will guide your choice of topics and your sequence of assignments. In fact, setting course goals is the first step in the Backward Design process, which was developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005). The premise of their process is to approach course design from the standpoint of supporting students as they move beyond the memorization of information to creatively and critically engage with the course content. Following this design process, the instructor teaches toward specific goals that promote the transferal of expertise, which is marked by the measurable acquisition and application of knowledge and skills.