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I’m sure I’m doing it wrong

Most educators have been told, during the completion of their degrees, that learning starts with objectives or outcomes. Then, often relying on a Bloom’s Taxonomy verb list, those outcomes are translated into activities and ultimately assessment. It’s an ok model, I guess. I just don’t like it. I have yet to find research that states that learning outcomes contribute to more effective learning (if you know of research on the subject, please let me know). I’m not advocating for disorganized approaches to teaching and learning. Some organization is obviously required. But we can organize with out wearing and educational theory straight jacket. As Dean Shareski states in I’m sure I’m doing it wrong: “Simple. Meaningful. Necessary. Education has become very good at making the simple very complex. That just seems wrong to me.”


  1. I’m more convinced that planning learning starts with the final exam. Or, as Dick and Carey say, get an idea of what the learner will be able to do and how you are going to tell they can do it.

    Starting with objectives is fine if you know exactly what the outcome will be. This is only possible with credentialing and other closed systems. Unfortunately, most schools have that model.

    Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 9:16 pm | Permalink
  2. Clark Quinn wrote:

    George, somehow you’ve got to know what you want people to be able to do at the end, before you start. I agree we over do it, or mis-do it. I like van Merrienboer’s taxonomy: two objectives, the knowledge you need, and the complex decisions you make with that knowledge. I focus on the latter, naturally, because that makes the former meaningful. I suggest you hit up Will Thalheimer, who talks eloquently about objectives: what works, what doesn’t. I’ll bet he’s got the research you want ‘to hand’.

    Friday, October 24, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink
  3. Guy Boulet wrote:

    While an individual can learn without having as objective to do it (accidental learning), most learning is based on objectives. When I go on Google to search about a subject matter, my objective is to find out something specific about this subject matter. I might learn stuff I was not expecting, but it all started with an objective. If I hadn’t have that objective in the first place, I wouldn’t have done a search and woudn’t have done accidental learning.

    Of course, if I make a big mistake at work, I will probably draw some valuable lessons from it without ever having plan to learn anything. But, although this is probably one of the best way to learn (retention is quite good in such cases) this is not the way most learning happens.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at 7:03 am | Permalink

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