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Backward Design Step 4: Identify Unit Objectives

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Identify unit objectives for your course


In the development of your course structure, you were asked to break your course into smaller units. Not only do units provide a useful conceptual framework that helps students understand how content is organized, they are also help to guide you in more detailed design. With units identified, you can create more concrete unit objectives that help support your course outcomes, which tend to be more conceptual. The writing of good unit objectives will yield the greatest returns in the course design process. Well‑constructed unit objectives help an instructor know what they want to teach, identify the ways in which students will be assessed, help students know what they will learn, and can help the department, program, and/or institution know how the course is meeting accreditation standards.


  • SPECIFIC — The unit objective describes the knowledge, attitudes, or skills that a learner should be able to demonstrate following a learning activity.
  • MEASURABLE — The achievement of the unit objective can be measured by test items, observation, problem‑solving exercises, or other assessment methods during or after an activity.
  • ATTAINABLE — The unit objective includes an action verb that demonstrates change or acquisition of knowledge, attitudes, or behaviors.
  • RELEVANT — The unit objective reflects realistic expectations of student knowledge, attitude, or behavior.
  • TIME-BASED — The unit objective specifies the time frame in which learners are expected to achieve it.


Bloom's Taxonomy is a set of three hierarchical domains (cognitive, affective and psychomotor) used to classify educational learning objectives into levels of complexity and specificity. While instructors are challenged to create higher‑level activities, these activities are dependent on students having already attained the prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. A goal of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on building a learning path for the student from lower‑level to higher‑level learning. When writing a good unit objectives, it is important to determine the desired level of Bloom’s Taxonomy for the unit. Once this is determined, select an appropriate verb associated with that level.


In the book Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain, Benjamin Bloom defines the cognitive domain that includes knowledge and the development of intellectual skills, recall or recognition of specific facts, procedural patterns, and concepts that serve in the development of intellectual abilities and skills (Bloom et al. 1956).

  • CREATE — Putting elements together to form a coherent or functional whole; reorganizing elements into a new pattern or structure through generating, planning, or producing.
  • EVALUATE — Making judgments based on criteria and standards through checking and critiquing.
  • ANALYZE — Breaking material into constituent parts, determining how the parts relate to one another, and creating an overall structure or purpose through differentiating, organizing, and attributing.
  • APPLY — Carrying out or using a procedure through executing or implementing.
  • UNDERSTAND — Constructing meaning from oral, written, and graphic messages through interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing, and explaining.
  • REMEMBER — Retrieving, recognizing, and recalling relevant knowledge from long‑term memory.


REMEMBERDefine, Describe, List, Memorize, Recall, Recognize, Repeat, Reproduce, State
UNDERSTANDClassify, Discuss, Identify, Interpret, Locate, Paraphrase, Report, Summarize
APPLYChoose, Demonstrate, Dramatize, Employ, Illustrate, Interpret, Operate, Use
ANALYZEAttribute, Compare, Deconstruct, Integrate, Organize, Outline, Structure
EVALUATEArgue, Check, Critique, Defend, Experiment, Judge, Select, Support, Test, Value
CREATEAssemble, Construct, Design, Develop, Formulate, Invent, Produce, Write


REMEMBERDescribe the meaning of the two key concepts of variance and correlation.
UNDERSTANDInterpret an image using formal analysis of the construction of art.
APPLYDemonstrate the use of various statistical measurements to data sets.
ANALYZECompare the composition of paintings from different eras and deconstruct shared elements.
EVALUATECritique the argument that fracking techniques are safe to humans and the environment.
CREATEDesign a research model to study the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.


REMEMBERWhat do you remember about __? How would you explain __? Describe what happens when __. Find the definition of __. Identify, locate, or name __.
UNDERSTANDHow would you sort/classify/categorize __? Tell me what you mean when you say __. Use your own words to summarize __. What is another way of saying __? Compare/contrast __. How can you explain __?
APPLYWhich factors would you change if __? What questions would you ask of __? Which approach would you use to __? What actions would you to take if __? What would the results be if __? Why does __ work?
ANALYZEIs __ based on fact or opinion? Explain what must have happened when __. What conclusions can you draw from __? What is similar/different from __? What is the motive/underlying theme of __? What is the relationship between __?
EVALUATEHow would you explain __? What changes to __ would you recommend? Do you agree with the outcome of __? Why? What evidence supports your view? What are the consequences of __? How could __ be improved?
CREATEWhat changes could you make to revise __? What theory can you propose for __? How many ways can you __? What might be a solution for __? Develop a plan/proposal for __. Devise your own way to __.


In the book Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook 2: Affective Domain, David Krathwohl, Benjamin Bloom, and Bertram Masia defined the affective domain that includes the manner in which we deal with things emotionally, such as feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasm, motivations, and attitudes (Krathwohl, et al. 1965).

  • INTERNALIZE — Developing a value system that controls their behavior.
  • ORGANIZE — Organizing values into priorities.
  • VALUE — Attaching worth or value to a particular object, phenomenon, or behavior.
  • RESPOND TO PHENOMENA — Attending and reacting to a particular phenomenon.
  • RECEIVE PHENOMENA — Experiencing awareness, willingness to hear, and selected attention.


RECEIVE PHENOMENAAcknowledge, Ask, Follow, Give, Listen, Understand
RESPOND TO PHENOMENAAnswer, Assist, Aid, Comply, Conform, Discuss, Perform, Question, Tell
VALUEAppreciate, Cherish, Treasure, Demonstrate, Initiate, Invite, Join, Justify, Share
ORGANIZECompare, Relate, Synthesize, Recognize
INTERNALIZEAct, Discriminate, Display, Influence, Modify, Question, Revise, Show, Verify


RECEIVE PHENOMENAListen for and remember the name of newly introduced people.
RESPOND TO PHENOMENAQuestion new ideas, concepts, and models in order to fully understand them.
VALUEDemonstrate belief in the democratic process.
ORGANIZERecognize the need for a balance between freedom and responsible behavior.
INTERNALIZEShow self-reliance when working independently.


In the book The Classification of Educational Objectives: Psychomotor Domain, Elizabeth Simpson defines the psychomotordomain that includes physical movement, coordination, and use of the motor‑skill areas. Development of these skills requires practice and is measured in terms of speed, precision, distance, procedures, or techniques in execution (Simpson 1972).

  • ORIGINATION — Creating new movement patterns to fit a particular situation or specific problem.
  • ADAPTATION — Modifying movement patterns to fit special requirements.
  • COMPLEX OVERT RESPONSE — Performing motor acts involving complex movement.
  • MECHANISM — Having responses that are habitual and can be performed with some confidence.
  • GUIDED RESPONSE — Learning complex skills through trial and error.
  • SET — Being ready to act through mental, physical, and emotional states.
  • PERCEPTION — Using sensory cues to guide motor activity.


PERCEPTIONChoose, Describe, Detect, Differentiate, Distinguish, Identify, Relate, Select
SETAct, Begin, Display, Explain, Move, Proceed, Show, State, Volunteer
GUIDED RESPONSECopy, Trace, Follow, React to, Reproduce, Respond
MECHANISMAssemble, Build, Calibrate, Display, Manipulate, Measure, Mix, Organize, Use
COMPLEX OVERT RESPONSEAssemble, Build, Calibrate, Display, Manipulate, Measure, Mix, Organize, Use (Same as Mechanism but will indicate that the performance is quicker, better, etc.)
ADAPTATIONAdapt, Alter, Change, Rearrange, Reorganize, Revise, Vary
ORIGINATIONArrange, Build, Combine, Compose, Construct, Design, Initiate, Make, Respond


PERCEPTIONDetect non-verbal communication cues.
SETKnow and act upon a sequence of steps in the manufacturing process.
GUIDED RESPONSEPerform a mathematical equation as demonstrated.
MECHANISMUse a personal computer.
COMPLEX OVERT RESPONSEOperate a personal computer quickly and accurately.
ADAPTATIONRespond effectively to unexpected experiences.
ORIGINATIONDevelop a new and comprehensive training program.

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Keywords:unit objectives, units, backward design   Doc ID:104178
Owner:Timmo D.Group:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
Created:2020-07-20 16:37 CDTUpdated:2021-08-31 14:05 CDT
Sites:Center for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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