Learning Objectives


Learning objectives are the desired educational outcomes that are developed by teachers for their students. By designing activities with learning objectives in mind, teachers can look for evidence of learning demonstrated by their students, know what that evidence looks like, and identify ways to improve future learning through tinkering and trying new things. A learning objective is an action statement that students will be able to do if they have indeed learned the objective.

Learning objectives can be related to anything that students can do:

  • Ability to do work in a specific subject that you are teaching (math, geography, history, etc.)
  • The skills you want to teach (ability to infer, ability to make arguments, etc.)
  • Ability to define hard-to-describe abstract concepts (race, population, push and pull forces, etc.)
  • Knowing specific facts about things (the population of a Chicago census tract, the year of the Chicago fire, etc.)

The UIC-GIS and American Migrations Project learning objectives contain 1) an action statement (e.g., students will be able to [enter action verb here]), 2) descriptions of things that demonstrate evidence for showing that a learning objective is achieved, and 3) examples of student work that demonstrates achieving a learning objective.




Below are a few learning objectives that might be of use in a middle school curriculum unit about maps and migrations. This list is also available in PDF format.


Students Will Be Able To:
Detailed Description
...make clear, accurate observations from a data map
They can describe a GIS map using details, descriptions, comparisons and examples: "It's darker over here than over there," "There is cluster near the ocean, or "There are a lot of black people in Mississippi." Better observations are easy to understand, and help others see what you are seeing.
...make clear, relevant inferences about the data, connecting to other texts or prior knowledge
They can connect the things they see in the map to things they have read about or heard about. Inferences don't have to be correct, but they should be clear. "Maybe there are more people because they can get a job there." "This area is by the river, and we read about people traveling on the river." Better inferences are relevant to what we are studying, with a clearly explained connection.
...make specific, accurate comparisons of data maps
They can describe specific ways two maps are similar and/or different, clearly and accurately, using words and gestures to show the comparison.
  • They might compare maps of the same place in different years, showing change over time
  • They might compare maps of two different places, to show how they are similar/different
  • They might compare geographic features on the maps, or compare the data on the maps
...correctly read and interpret a map legend
They can state what different colors, shapes, numbers, or labels on the map refer to, using the legend to look things up. They can use the legend to find answers to questions about what the map shows.
...name examples of census variables, and find which variables are available in a data map
They can give several examples of variables used in the census (such as population, race, education level, ancestry, family income, employment). They could name them from memory, and also should be able to find them in the web site. Better answers might include more specifics: "percent high school graduate," "African American population," "percent employed."
...give examples of inconsistencies between census data maps and the real world
They can give examples of ways that data (or data maps) may be misleading or wrong. For example:
  • The data could be wrong because there may have been mistakes in counting people.
  • The census could be misleading because of the government's decisions of who to count, who not to count, and what to call people (such as Hispanic, Mexican, Native American)
  • The data could be misleading because of how they were collected -- for example, the census did not ask the same questions every year, so data are missing in some years.
  • A map could be misleading because the shapes or colors can give you the wrong idea (for example, dark colors may mean high percentage instead of high population number).
Better explanations show that students know that there is a difference between the map and the real world (the map is not necessarily the truth). Even better explanations might show that they know that people collected the data, and those people made decisions we may or may not agree with.



March 23, 2015
NYT's new interactive Mapping Migrations tool shows where people in each state were born with data from 1900, 1950 and 2012!

March 20, 2015
Curriculum Modules Updates:
Latino Migrations (college level)

Describe Latino Populations (middle school)

Introduction to Reading Census Maps

March 1, 2015
Chicago Election Results in Relation to 2013 School Closings

February 27, 2015
GIS Map Shows Chicago Election Results

10 Steps for Using Social Explorer YouTube tutorial is here! Check it out here!

Featured Artifact
Cooper Center Racial Dot Map
One Dot Per Person: the Cooper Center's Racial Dot Map

The map displays one dot for each person residing in the United States at the location they were counted during the 2010 Census. Each dot is color-coded by the individual's race and ethnicity.