Instructors Can Guide Undergraduate Students to Use Learning Objectives to Help Them Study
What is this Research About?
Learning objectives are statements that describe what instructors intend for students to know and be able to do after a lesson, unit, or course. When aligned with course assessments and activities, learning objectives can help communicate instructors’ expectations and may help students guide their studying. This research investigated students’ use and perceptions of learning objectives.
What did the Researchers Do?
The researchers aimed to understand if, why, and how undergraduate students use learning objectives to study. The researchers also investigated what instructions students have received about using learning objectives to study. They also studied whether students who did use learning objectives thought they aligned with the course assessments. To answer these questions, the researchers had 185 undergraduate students complete a homework assignment after each of the two exams in a third-year biology course. The assignments consisted of open-ended questions and the researchers analyzed students’ answers.
What did the Researchers Find?
Most students (72%) reported using the learning objectives to study for the exams in the course. Most commonly, students used the learning objectives as practice questions to answer or as a study resource (e.g., a checklist). These results matched the instructions students reported being given about learning objectives, mainly to “complete them” or to use them to inform studying. Students reported that learning objectives helped them narrow down information and organize their studying. Students who used the learning objectives reported they aligned very well (81%) with the exam questions. Most students who did not use the learning objectives to study found other resources (42%); however, others (15%) were not aware of the learning objectives.