Carnegie Mellon University

Eberly Center

Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation

Course Design > Incorporate and Revise Learning Objectives

Incorporate or adapt learning objectives that engage with DEI and foster equitable outcomes.

Interrogate and adapt existing learning objectives to support inclusion.

Examples

  1. Write objectives that recognize revitalisation efforts for many languages and do not relegate Indigenous peoples to the past. (Linguistics)

    1. Original learning objective: “Identify where Indigenous languages used to be spoken.” 

    2. Revised learning objective: “Identify the original language(s) of various locations in North America”.  

  2. Write objectives that include multiple perspectives about the theory of evolution. (Biological Sciences)

    1. Original learning objective: “Justify the theory of evolution.”

    2. Revised learning objective: “Compare and contrast science- versus faith-based arguments on the theory of evolution.”

Considerations

  1. Learning objectives are particularly effective when articulated as student-centered, action-oriented, and measurable/observable outcomes. 

  2. Assessments and teaching methods should be tightly aligned with learning objectives. Creating a map or grid of learning objectives and assessments can help you determine the extent to which each learning objective receives attention in the course. 

Add new learning objectives to call out how your course engages with DEI. 

Examples:

  1. “Recognize how power imbalances and issues of trust influence what types of research are done and published and how this may impact the discipline and clinical practice.” (Psychology)

  2. “Evaluate the public availability (or lack thereof) of ‘big data’ sets in light of political, social, and disciplinary norms and biases.” (Information Systems)

  3. “Apply the key principles of universal design from the accessibility literature (as it pertains to physical and cognitive abilities) and from key theories in gender, race, and queer studies to critique the inclusiveness of existing technologies.” (Human Computer Interaction) 

Considerations:

  1. Depending on your course content, focusing on one aspect of DEI that aligns most with your existing learning objectives, course materials, assignments, or classroom activities is one way to start small.

  2. Learning objectives are particularly effective when articulated as student-centered, action-oriented, and measurable/observable outcomes. 

Incorporate learning objectives that intentionally combine both disciplinary and DEI goals.

Examples:

  1. “Recognize and describe important themes in the history of the discipline, and analyze how traditional works might be inclusive or exclusive.” (Music)

  2. “Describe the engineering design process, including how non-inclusiveness can lead to product failure.” (Engineering)

  3. “Design and complete a research study according to ethical research practices/standards (e.g., respectful interaction with research participants, anonymity, IRB compliance, etc)” (Research Methods) 

  4. “Demonstrate inclusive interpersonal skills to participate as a member of the field (e.g., attending conferences, writing reviews, handling confrontations)” (Any)

Considerations:

  1. Explicitly sharing with students out how the DEI lens is an integral subset of a traditional disciplinary objective can build upon and enhance that objective.

  2. Such combinations do not necessarily require a major course design overhaul. Small changes throughout the course can be impactful (e.g., add discussion or reading questions that regularly address this objective).

Write learning objectives that explicitly include all students by challenging assumptions or biases regarding shared norms and behaviors.

Examples:

  1. Write learning objectives that allow multiple points of entry into professional development. (Business)

    1. Original learning objective: “Recognize and practice ethical and responsible professional behaviors.” 

    2. Revised learning objective: “When considering ethical dilemmas in professional contexts, recognize how professional norms may privilege some and disadvantage others.” 

  2. Write learning objectives that intentionally decenter white supremacy culture. (Drama)

    1. Original learning objective: “Through script analysis, character exploration, and scene work, students should be able to embody a character believably and passionately.”

    2. Revised learning objective: “Through script analysis, character exploration, and scene work, students should be able to more fully inhabit a culture that’s traditionally decentered in American theater spaces.” 

Considerations: 

  1. Making expectations about prior competence clear in one’s syllabus helps students determine if the class is appropriate given their background. 

  2. Providing appropriate background material to reference differences in cultural assumptions, age, race, etc., in regards to one’s learning objectives allows all students to understand references. 

  3. Different theoretical perspectives may also have associated assumptions and bias.

  4. Explaining or addressing any relevant professional norms or standards in your discipline is important for students with different backgrounds or levels of experience in the discipline.

 

 

Eberly colleagues are here to help!

Eberly colleagues are available to help you translate strategies and examples to your particular teaching context (eberly-assist@andrew.cmu.edu).