Curriculum Development Using Effective Goals and Objectives

A hand holding a pencil against a page with the word curriculum.
Effective curriculum goals and objectives should have two major outcomes. First, students should acquire the same knowledge from the same courses, regardless of the teacher. Second, the students should finish a course ready to move on to the next course, year, or life stage.

These goals and objectives aim to standardize learning objectives for all students and simplify outcomes for teachers. That said, constructing straightforward, achievable goals and objectives can be a lofty task.

Here, we will discuss these processes so that you can more simply focus on constructing a holistic curriculum that benefits all parties.

Curriculum Goals

Curriculum goals are general, broad statements that lead towards long-term outcomes. These goals are typically designed to be met by students after a longer period of time such as a year of schooling or a series of courses in a discipline.

Specifically, goals are always farther-reaching than objectives, and as such are usually based on the idea that they lead students towards being better able to be productive members of their societies.

This handout explains how to write accurate learning objectives.

Here are some ideas to consider when constructing goals:

  • The scope of the goal. Goals can encompass multiple years, entire disciplines, or a whole program. Before you choose the goal you want to construct, think about the time and scope of the learning objectives directed by the goal. For example, you could create a goal for the three-year art class sequence at your school, or choose a goal for students to complete over a single semester in high school linguistics.
  • The type of goal: skill, behavior, or knowledge. Goals can incorporate a variety of processes, including skills to be learned, attitudes to be adopted, or concepts to be understood. Take this variety of goals as an example:
    • To develop skills in painting, drawing, and sculpting
    • To understand the necessity for collaborative problem solving
    • To appreciate music as a means of artistic expression
  • Do not specify how a goal will be achieved. Make sure to separate the functions of goals from the functions of objectives. Think about goals as big-picture and long-term, while objectives are multiple, shorter-term processes towards reaching the goal.

Curriculum Objectives

Objectives are related to goals in that they are specific methods through which students can demonstrate their understanding or application of goals.

Here are some ways to ensure a strong correlation between goals and objectives.

  • Create objectives that are observable and measurable. When constructing objectives, consider these questions: What behaviors, applications, or products should students produce to demonstrate an understanding of the goal? What distinguishes mastery of this goal from simple recall or low-level understanding?
  • Construct objectives using behavioral terms. Consider the different behaviors that are closely related to your goal. Generally, behavioral objectives can be divided into the following categories:
    • Cognitive (head)
    • Affective (heart)
    • Physical (hand)
  • Create objectives with variable time expectations. Some objectives should be longer-term, with students needing to work towards mastery over a year or semester. Other objectives, on the other hand, should be completed over a shorter period such as one week or unit. For example, a long-term objective could be an effective one, like “students will learn to be compassionate to others,” taught over an entire year. On the other hand, a short-term objective could be “students will demonstrate understanding of basic biology terms” learned over the unit covered.

Constructing accurate and actionable curriculum goals and objectives can be a challenge. Remember: simplicity is often difficult to achieve. However, if you map out your goal and objective plan in writing first, you’ll be better able to determine if you have achieved practicable goals and objectives.

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