Online Pedagogy and Theory

–Dr. Rebecca M. Reese–

Faculty at Laramie County Community College (LCCC) create well-designed courses that focus on competency-based learning. Competency-based learning emphasizes the measurement of competencies through the use of authentic assessments which are based from learning objectives. A competency is a set of defined skills and/or knowledge required to successfully perform a task or activity, and is often used as a measure for assessing a learner’s level of understanding. Competencies must be clearly defined and identify the discrete processes, skills or knowledge, with associated assessments that measure what is to be learned.

Learning objectives are specific measurable statements written in behavioral, procedural, conceptual or meta-cognitive terms using action or actionable verbs, which support the competencies. Mastery of learning objectives is demonstrated through successful completion of learning activities (i.e. assessments, discussions and assignments). In other words, learning objectives say what we want the learners to know and competencies indicate how we can be sure they know it.

Keys to writing good learning objectives:

  1. Focus on the learner’s performance not the instructor’s performance (e.g. a learner centered objective might read, ‘describe the differences between traditional and crisis management.)
  2. Begin with a behavioral verb and include one general outcome (i.e. ‘list examples of possible biological contaminants resulting from a natural disaster.’)
  3. Objectives must tie back to the competency and content

In summary, competencies are more complex than learning objectives, and one competency generally defines several applied skills and/or knowledge. However, learning objectives are more specific and relate to one outcome. Below are some examples of competencies and their related learning objectives.

 Example 1
Students will increase their understanding of an organization’s role in society and police organizational issues.

Learning objectives:
Interpret the police organization’s role in society.
Recognize the values and rewards of providing quality police customer service.
Analyze and discuss the characteristics of traditional (formal) police organizational structure and police subculture (informal).

Utilizes appropriate methods for interacting sensitively, effectively, and professionally with persons from diverse cultural, socioeconomic, educational, racial, ethnic and professional backgrounds, and persons of all ages and lifestyle preferences.

Learning objectives:
Describe the demographic trends and epidemiological trends related to diverse populations in the United States and abroad
Compare and contrast diversity and cultural competency in the public health context
Identify a framework to design culturally competent public health care services for diverse populations.

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.
Bowden, J. A., & Marton, F. (2004). The university of learning: Beyond quality and competence. Oxford: Routledge.
Gagné, R. M. (1985). The conditions of learning and theory of instruction (p. 304). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Melton, R. (2014). Objectives, Competencies and Learning Outcomes: developing instructional materials in Open and Distance learning. Routledge.
Noble, T. (2004). Integrating the revised Bloom’s taxonomy with multiple intelligences: A planning tool for curriculum differentiation. The Teachers College Record, 106(1), 193-211.
Voorhees, P. (2002) Creating and implementing competency-based learning models. New Directions for Institutional Research, 110, 83-96.




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