How to define SMART learning objectives

How to define SMART learning objectives (REVISAR)

Components of a curriculum

Fig. 2: Elements of a curriculm by Harden RM, Crosby J: The good teacher is more than a lecturer – the twelve roles of the teacher. Medical Teacher, 22(4)2000. ISSN 0142-159X (print) / ISSN 1466-187X (online)/00/040334-14.

How to define SMART learning objectives

In a next step the planning goes over from the sub-competence level to the level of SMART learning objectives (point 2 in figure 1). This is: to operationalise the expected outcomes for guiding the teaching-learning process. Based on the competencies defined the expected learning outcomes must be derived SMART. SMART ist the manner of describing specific, measurable, achievable , realsistic and timed learning objectives.

Consider: The more SMART the objectives , the more effective works their guiding function for the whole teaching and learning process!

The leading questions are:

What exactly do we expect?

When and to what extent (level) do we expect this?

How can we detect success or failing (indicator)? What assessment should we apply therefore?


Fig. 3 SMART learning objectives


Fig. 4 Examples of SMART learning objectices

There exist two widespread models of systematizing learning outcomes/resp. objectives. First to mention, the logical perspective: Certain frameworks use the descriptional analysis of competence in the following way, and I recommend we take it into consideration (you might remember this triple from our Surgical trainer´s profile description). They show three essential elements of competences:

Knowledge – is defined as the body of facts, principles, theories and practices that is related to a field of work or profession. It is normally described as theoretical and/or factual knowledge, contributing to the development of competencies (lists of facts, contents etc.)

A skill is defined as an ability - the ability to apply knowledge and use know-how to complete tasks and solve problems. Skills are described as cognitive (logical, intuitive and creative thinking) or practical (involving manual dexterity and the use of methods, materials, tools and instruments) abilities, and therefore core components of competencies.

An a attitude as the tendency to respond positively (or negatively) towards a certain idea, object, person or situation. Attitudes in medical teaching are mostly described as desired behaviour regarding the execution of the professionnal tasks.

Another model to systematize the development of outcomes is Miller`s pyramid. The model was developed by a psychologist called Miller to assist the „assessment of clinical skills/competences/abilities“ – as it was called by him. Originally, the purpose of the model was to show, that – if you want to assess the development of clinical comepetence - you need to recognize, that 1. competence belongs to certain components and 2. that normally those components develop and build up complex abilities over a longer period. Competence develop over time and this development can be shown as stages or levels of competence. It can serve as a means to mark curricular milestones.


Fig. 4 Miller’s pyramide of competence

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