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Backward Design Step 4: Identify Unit Objectives

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Identify unit objectives for your course


In developing 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 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 instructors know what they want to teach, identify ways students will be assessed, help students know what they will learn, and help the department, program, and/or institution know whether the course meets accreditation standards.

Qualities of good unit objectives

  • 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 demonstrating a 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 learners are expected to achieve the objective.

Bloom's Taxonomy

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 depend on students having already attained the prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. Bloom’s Taxonomy aims to motivate educators to focus on building a learning path for the student from lower‑level to higher‑level learning. When writing good unit objectives, it is vital to determine the desired level of Bloom’s Taxonomy for the unit. Once this is determined, select an appropriate verb associated with that level.

Bloom's Cognitive Domain

In the book Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Handbook 1: Cognitive Domain, Benjamin Bloom defines the cognitive domain as including knowledge and the development of intellectual skills, recall or recognition of specific facts, procedural patterns, and concepts that serve 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, 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.
Verbs for a cognitive domain
Level Verbs
REMEMBER Define, Describe, List, Memorize, Recall, Recognize, Repeat, Reproduce, State
UNDERSTAND Classify, Discuss, Identify, Interpret, Locate, Paraphrase, Report, Summarize
APPLY Choose, Demonstrate, Dramatize, Employ, Illustrate, Interpret, Operate, Use
ANALYZE Attribute, Compare, Deconstruct, Integrate, Organize, Outline, Structure
EVALUATE Argue, Check, Critique, Defend, Experiment, Judge, Select, Support, Test, Value
CREATE Assemble, Construct, Design, Develop, Formulate, Invent, Produce, Write
Examples for unit objectives — cognitive domain
Level Example
REMEMBER Describe the meaning of the two key concepts of variance and correlation.
UNDERSTAND Interpret an image using formal analysis of the construction of art.
APPLY Demonstrate the use of various statistical measurements of data sets.
ANALYZE Compare the composition of paintings from different eras and deconstruct shared elements.
EVALUATE Critique the argument that fracking techniques are safe for humans and the environment.
CREATE Design a research model to study the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Student prompts for the cognitive domain
Level Prompt
REMEMBER What do you remember about __? How would you explain __? Describe what happens when __. Find the definition of __. Identify, locate, or name __.
UNDERSTAND How 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 __?
APPLY Which 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?
ANALYZE Is __ 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 __?
EVALUATE How 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?
CREATE What 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 __.

Bloom's affective domain

In the book Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook 2: Affective Domain, David Krathwohl, Benjamin Bloom, and Bertram Masia defined the affective domain as including the way 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.

Verbs for the affective domain
Level Verbs
RECEIVE PHENOMENA Acknowledge, Ask, Follow, Give, Listen, Understand
RESPOND TO PHENOMENA Answer, Assist, Aid, Comply, Conform, Discuss, Perform, Question, Tell
VALUE Appreciate, Cherish, Treasure, Demonstrate, Initiate, Invite, Join, Justify, Share
ORGANIZE Compare, Relate, Synthesize, Recognize
INTERNALIZE Act, Discriminate, Display, Influence, Modify, Question, Revise, Show, Verify

Examples of unit objectives — affective domain
Level Examples
RECEIVE PHENOMENA Listen for and remember the names of newly introduced people.
RESPOND TO PHENOMENA Question new ideas, concepts, and models to fully understand them.
VALUE Demonstrate belief in the democratic process.
ORGANIZE Recognize the need for a balance between freedom and responsible behavior.
INTERNALIZE Show self-reliance when working independently.

Bloom's psychomotor domain

In the book The Classification of Educational Objectives: Psychomotor Domain, Elizabeth Simpson defines the psychomotor domain as including 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 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.

Verbs for the psychomotor domain
Level Verbs
PERCEPTION Choose, Describe, Detect, Differentiate, Distinguish, Identify, Relate, Select
SET Act, Begin, Display, Explain, Move, Proceed, Show, State, Volunteer
GUIDED RESPONSE Copy, Trace, Follow, React to, Reproduce, Respond
MECHANISM Assemble, Build, Calibrate, Display, Manipulate, Measure, Mix, Organize, Use
COMPLEX OVERT RESPONSE Assemble, Build, Calibrate, Display, Manipulate, Measure, Mix, Organize, Use (Same as Mechanism but will indicate that the performance is quicker, better, etc.)
ADAPTATION Adapt, Alter, Change, Rearrange, Reorganize, Revise, Vary
ORIGINATION Arrange, Build, Combine, Compose, Construct, Design, Initiate, Make, Respond

Examples of unit objectives — psychomotor domain
Level Examples
PERCEPTION Detect non-verbal communication cues.
SET Know and act upon a sequence of steps in the manufacturing process.
GUIDED RESPONSE Perform a mathematical equation as demonstrated.
MECHANISM Use a personal computer.
COMPLEX OVERT RESPONSE Operate a personal computer quickly and accurately.
ADAPTATION Respond effectively to unexpected experiences.
ORIGINATION Develop a new and comprehensive training program.

Keywordsunit objectives, units, backward designDoc ID104178
OwnerTimmo D.GroupInstructional Resources
Created2020-07-20 15:37:32Updated2024-02-20 13:00:10
SitesCenter for Teaching, Learning & Mentoring
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