Crafting Effective Learning Objectives
Crafting Effective Learning Objectives

Teachers who can articulate specific and directed objectives for each visit to the archives are able to create a more a effective learning experience for their students. As such, we encourage instructors to craft and articulate these learning objectives well ahead of the archives visit, and to reiterate the objectives to their students.

First, it is important to understand the difference between a “learning objective” and a “learning goal.” Many of the faculty with whom we work initially articulated learning goals: statements that describe in broad terms what a student will gain from a course.1

Most faculty want to create engaging intellectual experiences, build community among their students, introduce them to the joys of primary source research, and encourage students to think of themselves as creators – not just consumers – of knowledge.

These are important, admirable goals. But they are not specific enough statements around which to shape a successful archives visit. We asked the teachers we worked with to push themselves further by identifying 1 or more learning objectives for each visit.

A learning objective is a statement that describes in specific and measurable terms exactly what the student will know (content) or be able to do (skill) as a result of completing an in-archives activity.2 Excellent learning objectives:

  • use measurable verbs
  • articulate how students will demonstrate learning
  • provide criterion of acceptable performance

Students thrive in the archives when they have a clear understanding of why they are there (beyond it being a “cool experience”) and how the visit relates to the broader aims of their course. This is especially true in courses that don’t traditionally work with primary sources.

Crafting great objectives is an ongoing, iterative process. The professors we worked with revisited and tweaked their objectives each semester they repeated an in-archives activity. In professional development workshops, they also received feedback from archives staff and colleagues about their objectives. Be sure to check out the effective objectives honed by these instructors over time in the exercises on this site.

1) On the differences between goals and objectives, see Robert F. Mager, Preparing Instructional Objectives: A Critical Tool in the Development of Effective Instruction (Atlanta, GA: The Center for Effective Performance, 1997), 1-12.

2) On defining learning objectives, see Mager, 1-32.

To cite this page:
Julie Golia and Robin M. Katz, “Crafting Effective Learning Objectives,”, accessed [insert date here],


Julie Golia
Historian / Founder and Editor,
Brooklyn Historical Society
view bio + contact info >
Robin M. Katz
Archivist / Founder and Editor,
Brooklyn Historical Society
view bio + contact info >