Aligning to Course Objectives

Use “backward design”

Although many teachers create courses without ever articulating exactly what they want students to take away from the experience (beyond simply “learning the content”), most well designed courses begin with specific course goals and student-learning objectives. Goals and objectives are similar in that they describe the intended purposes and expected results of teaching activities and establish the foundation for assessment. Goals are statements about general aims or purposes of education that are broad, long-range intended outcomes and concepts. Objectives are brief, clear statements that describe the desired learning outcomes of instruction; i.e., the specific skills, values, and attitudes students should exhibit that reflect the broader goals.

When you decide what you want students to take away from the course first, you can be more focused and deliberate in designing all course content—lectures, classroom activities, and assessments—to lead toward those goals and objectives; this style of course design is sometimes referred to as “backward design.”

Begin with the mission and goals of the program and course

Before designing student-learning objectives, let the mission and goals of the program help direct your course goals.  If your course is a General Education course—that is, it was formally approved by the General Education Oversight Committee (GEOC) to meet specific Gen Ed competency requirements, begin by familiarizing yourself with the learning outcomes specified for the course content area on the GEOC website.

Understand the purpose of student learning objectives.

Learning objectives communicate instructional expectations to students and direct the design of your teaching.


After reviewing the New Deal primary sources, students will debate the effectiveness of New Deal programs using at least six pieces of evidence. 

Tip: Follow the ABCD Model. Focus on the ABCD (audience, behavior, condition, and degree): 

 A (audience) Who is the target audience? (e.g., “Students will…”)

 B (behavior) What is the real work to be accomplished by the student? (e.g., “debate”)

They should be both observable and measurable behaviors.

They should refer to action verbs that describe behaviors.

 C (condition) What are the conditions/constraints within which the audience will be expected to perform these tasks? (e.g., “After reviewing the New Deal primary sources”)

D (degree) How will the behavior need to be performed? (e.g., “using at least six pieces of evidence”)

Write from the student’s perspective

Faculty often mistakenly write objectives from the teaching perspective, but concentration needs to be on what students learn, not what you convey

Focus on the cognitive domain

Objectives can be cognitive, affective, psychomotor and social (Bloom 1956; Krathwohl and Anderson, 2009; Dettmer, 2010), though most typically apply to the cognitive domain.  A common mistake is to write objectives in the affective domain (focusing on what you want your graduates to think or care about) when they are more readily articulated and measurable in the cognitive domain (focusing on what you want your graduates to know).  When we analyze our affective goals, we often realize that they are more teaching goals than student-learning goals.  Nevertheless, affective goals are occasionally applicable. There may also be appropriate objectives in the psychomotor domain.  These skill-based objectives might be more commonly found in classes like labs, where the ability to physically manipulate a tool or instrument is necessary.

Ensure that objectives are measurable

Effective objectives are stated using action verbs (“develop an understanding of…” is not measurable).  See Bloom’s Taxonomy as a resource.

Keep language concise and student friendly

Objectives should be short, focused, and to the point.  In the example above, we only include the most important descriptive details and we minimize jargon.  The only term that students might be unaware of is “New Deal programs.”  This is important for novice learners coming to a new course or discipline.

Instructors can create “Rubrics”, or grading matrices, in HuskyCT which can be used for grading Assignments, Discussions, Blogs, Journals, and Wikis. It is also possible to associate a Rubric with a Grade Center column. Rubrics can be created with no points associated with level of performance in a certain area, set points, point ranges, percents or a percent range.

The initial “Rubric Grid”, or template, consists of 3 rows for the criteria being evaluated and 3 columns for different levels of achievement. The number of rows and columns can be edited and text can be placed in each cell of the rubric which describes that level of performance for a particular area being assessed.


Rubrics can be exported from one HuskyCT site and imported into another.

Associated Help Files

Using Rubrics (Blackboard help file)

What are rubrics? (website at DePaul University with information about using rubrics. Examples are included)

Blackboard YouTube Tutorials:

How to create a rubric for grading student work

How to grade using a rubric


Blumberg, Phyllis. Developing learner-centered teaching: A practical guide for faculty. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

Dettmer, P. (2005). New blooms in established fields: Four domains of learning and doing. Roeper review, 28(2), 70-78.

Krathwohl, D. R., & Anderson, L. W. (2009). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. Longman.

Wiggins, Grant, and McTighe, Jay. (1998). Backward Design. In Understanding by Design (pp. 13-34). ASCD