Creating Significant Learning Goals

Fink (2013) recommends thinking about the impact you want to have on students a year or more after they’ve finished the course. The following table can guide you when thinking of learning outcomes and goals for each category.

Verbs for significant learning

The following table  has a list of some verbs organized by significant learning category.

Significant Learning Category Questions to Ask
Foundational Knowledge

What key information (facts, terms, formula, concepts, relationships…) is important for students to understand and remember in the future?


What key ideas or perspectives are important for students to understand in this course?


What kinds of thinking are important for students to learn here:

  • Critical thinking, in which students analyze and evaluate?
  • Creative thinking, in which students imagine and create?
  • Practical thinking, in which students solve problems and make decisions?

What important skills do students need to learn?


What complex projects do students need to learn how to manage?


What connections (similarities and interactions) should students recognize and make…

  • Among ideas within this course?
  • Among the information, ideas, and perspectives in this course and those in other courses or areas?
  • Between material in this course and the students’ own personal, social, and work lives?
Human Dimension

What can or should students learn about themselves?


What can or should students learn about interacting with people they may actually encounter in the future?


What changes would you like to see in what students care about, that is, any changes in their…

  • Interests?
  • Values?
  • Feelings?
Learning How to Learn

What would you like for students to learn about…

  • How to be a good student in a course like this?
  • How to engage in inquiry and construct knowledge with this subject matter?
  • How to become a self-directing learner relative to this subject? That is, have a learning agenda of what else they need and want to learn and a plan for learning it?

Adapted from Fink 2013.