KVCC Faculty Orientation Manual Online
click the graphic above to return to the menu

Academics (Teaching Excellence): Teaching to Objectives

Each course Syllabus contains overall Course Objectives. In addition to those there may be other Learning Outcomes that you develop for different sections of the course.

Learning Theory

So how do you go about developing a class that teaches to these objectives? You need to first understand how students learn.

Click HERE for a document on Learning Theory by Mark Kavanaugh

Measurable Objectives

You then need to construct Course Objectives (standardized on the Syllabus) and Learning Outcomes such that they are measurable. The most famous method of ensuring that your Outcomes are measurable is to refer to "Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives". Write your Learning Outcomes utilizing the adjectives that are listed in this document.

Click HERE for a document outlining Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives
Many people are familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy, but this document is actually the complete Taxonomy including not only the Cognitive Domain that many are already familiar with, but also the Affective and Psychomotor Domains.


You might consider that in the process of defining your lesson planning you are best to create the Assessments immediately after you have identified the Learning Outcomes for the lesson. The essential advantage of this approach as you design you lesson is that you first identify WHAT you want your students to know, then you define HOW you are going to measure their learning so you can know if they "got it" or not, and then you can define how you are going to TEACH the material to get them from where they are (a relative state of "not knowing" the material) to where you want them to be (a relative state of "knowing)!!

Click HERE for a document on designing Assessments by Mark Kavanaugh
Click HERE for a document on designing Assessments by Greg Fletcher

The key factor in the development of assessments and tests are to connect the items on the test to the learning outcomes that have been defined. You must ask yourself..."Does this question really measure what it is I want my students to know?"

Basic Steps in Assessment/Test Construction

  1. Specify the general objective(s) of the test
    1. What is the goal of testing?
    2. Is the test use to assess what students have learned and/or is the test an instructional tool itself?
  2. Define the Learning Outcomes you want to measure in this particular test
    1. What are the constructs?
    2. What are the operational definitions of these constructs (ex: if you are going to measure a "Positive Attitude" you will need to define what the "looks like" to an outside observer)
  3. Consider the group who is going to be taking the test and the skills they have
    1. Where will the test be conducted (live classroom, online, on site, while the student is performing the skill, etc.)
    2. Should it be timed? If so, how long? (If you are going to time an assessment, particularly in an online class, there should be pedagogical reasons to do so, otherwise you manifest artificial barriers based on technology---slow hardware, slow internet connection, etc.)
  4. Item Construction
    1. Allow the Learning Outcome to define the type of question. For example: higher order Learning Outcomes (see the Bloom document) are difficult to assess through a multiple choice question format.
    2. Generate a small pool of questions for each of the Learning Outcomes you want to assess.
    3. Select the test items that you feel best measure the desired performance in your students.
    4. Take into consideration the amount of time and attention it will take for your students to complete the test.
    5. Take into consideration the amount of time and attention it will take for you to grade the test.
    6. Consider if some of the test items will be graded objectively (multiple choice, short answer) or subjectively (essays, performance observations, etc.)
    7. Develop a grading rubric for those items that are subjective in order to increase the consistency and fairness of the evaluation/grading process.
  5. Scoring and Grading a Test
    1. Consider the different levels of effort needed to complete different items on the test and weigh them in the scoring mechanism accordingly. (ex: an item that asks for students to synthesis to disperate appraoches to a problem is "worth more" than an item that asks students to recognize the correct definition of a term among 4 possible answers.)
    2. Select a grading scheme that is clear and understandable. Many of us have grown up with grading scales of 1-100 or letter grades, so these are common ways in which to provide grade feedback to students.
  6. Evaluating the Effectiveness of the Test
    1. Tests may measure three things...how well your students learned the information, how well the information was taught, and how well the test item truely measured the construct or Learning Outcome...so we often need to evaluate the Validity and Reliabilty of the test itself
    2. You can also analyze items for their relative difficulty (items that nearly everyone missed) and relative discrimination (items that differentiate high and low overall scores)

Validity and Reliability

In evaluating all tests we need to answer two questions: Does the test actually measure the Learning Outcomes we intended it to measure, and does the test do this reliably each time we use it?

Test Validity

  • Are the constructs in the test clearly stated and accurately portrayed?
  • How do the test items correlate with other established methods of measuring the same construct or outcome?
  • Are the test items biased?

Test Reliability

  • Each time you use the test does it seem to produce the same overall results?

The establishement of Test Reliability and Validity is a research process in itself which is often far beyond the scope of the practice of teaching. However, it is wise to remain open to possibility of poorly defined test items, biased wording, leading questions, and poorly constructed testing circumstances and very possible reasons for poor, or "too good" performance.

Lesson Planning

Finally, armed with measurable Learning Objectives and appropriate Assessments we are ready to plan a lesson. A lesson can last one session or it can span multiple sessions. One great model for the development of Lesson Plans is to utilize Gagne's Nine Events.

Click HERE for a document on Lesson Planning by Mark Kavanaugh
Click HERE to download a Lesson Planning template based on Gagne's Nine Events