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Differentiated learning objectives

How can differentiated learning objectives be created?

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Answer Internal Staff

It is important for teachers to fully understand and articulate what a learner should be able to do after experiencing learning; learning objectives help to define beforehand what this is, and should always be differentiated to account for individual learners. A common approach to differentiation is to create learning objectives based on an ‘all learners must/ some learners will/ a few learners may’ structure (Machin et al., 2015). This ensures that a universal standard is established – all learners achieving the main aim of the session – but allows scope for development beyond this. The cognitive domain of Bloom’s taxonomy (1956) is useful in creating objectives, as it divides learning objectives into levels of complexity in a pyramid structure. At the bottom of the taxonomy are more basic skills, such as ‘remembering’ and ‘understanding’; the middle skill is ‘applying’ knowledge to situations; and the highest-level skills are deemed to be ‘analysing’, ‘evaluating’ and ‘creating’. Objectives which should be achieved by all learners should link to the ‘lower’ skills, and the more advanced objectives should be linked to the ‘higher’ skills. The best learning objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound (or SMART): for example, an English lesson’s objective may be ‘by the end of this lesson (T), you will be able to accurately describe (S, M) the correct uses of an apostrophe (R, A)’.


Bloom, B.S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., and Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals - Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.

Machin, L., Hindmarch, D., Murray, S. and Richardson, T. (2015). A Complete Guide to the Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training. Northwich: Critical Publishing.