How Can You Identify an Instructor’s Goals for a Course?

Understanding an instructor’s goals for a course is essential for students seeking to align their expectations and optimize their learning experience. In this article, we will explore various strategies that can help you identify your instructor’s goals and tailor your approach to meet those objectives.

1. Analyze the Course Syllabus

The course syllabus is a key resource that outlines the course objectives, learning outcomes, assessment methods, and other important information. Carefully reviewing the syllabus will provide you with valuable insights into the instructor’s expectations and goals for the course. Be sure to look for:

  • Course objectives: These statements define what students are expected to learn or achieve by the end of the course. They often include specific skills or knowledge areas that the instructor intends to cover.
  • Learning outcomes: These are statements that describe what students should be able to do or demonstrate upon completing the course. They are typically more detailed than course objectives and can help you gauge the instructor’s expectations.
  • Assessment methods: The types of assessments used in the course can reveal the instructor’s goals regarding student performance and understanding. For example, a focus on group projects may indicate an emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, while frequent exams may suggest a goal of ensuring content mastery.

2. Observe the Instructor’s Teaching Style

Each instructor has their own unique teaching style, which can provide insight into their goals for a course. Pay close attention to the instructor’s approach to lectures, class discussions, and assignments. Some aspects to consider include:

  • Emphasis on critical thinking: If the instructor encourages students to analyze and question course material, their goal may be to foster critical thinking and independent learning.
  • Real-world examples: The use of real-world examples and case studies may indicate a goal of helping students apply course concepts to practical situations.
  • Collaborative learning: An instructor who frequently assigns group work or encourages class discussions may prioritize teamwork and active participation in the learning process.

3. Communicate with the Instructor

One of the most effective ways to understand an instructor’s goals for a course is to engage in direct communication with them. This can be done through:

  • Office hours: Take advantage of your instructor’s office hours to discuss their goals and expectations for the course. This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions, seek clarification, and gain a deeper understanding of the course material.
  • Email correspondence: If you are unable to attend office hours, consider sending an email to your instructor to ask about their goals for the course. Be polite, concise, and respectful in your communication.
  • Class discussions: Participate in class discussions and listen carefully to the instructor’s responses to other students’ questions. This can provide additional insight into their goals and expectations.

4. Consult Course Evaluations and Peer Feedback

Previous course evaluations and feedback from your peers can provide valuable information about an instructor’s goals and teaching style. Keep in mind that individual experiences may vary, but this information can still offer useful insights. Consider the following sources:

  • Course evaluations: Many institutions provide access to anonymous course evaluations completed by past students. These evaluations often include comments about the instructor’s goals and teaching style, as well as general impressions of the course.
  • Peer feedback: Speak with classmates or students who have previously taken the course to gather their perspectives on the instructor’s goals and expectations. This information can be especially helpful if the course syllabus or other resources are unclear or insufficient.

5. Reflect on Your Personal Learning Goals

Finally, it’s important to consider your own learning goals and how they align with the instructor’s objectives. Reflect on what you hope to achieve in the course and how this aligns with the information you’ve gathered about the instructor’s goals. Consider:

  • Areas of interest: Are the instructor’s goals aligned with your areas of interest or career aspirations? If not, it may be worth considering alternative courses or discussing your concerns with the instructor.
  • Learning preferences: Does the instructor’s teaching style and assessment methods align with your preferred learning style? If there is a significant mismatch, consider discussing your needs with the instructor or seeking additional resources to support your learning.


Identifying an instructor’s goals for a course is an essential step in ensuring a successful learning experience. By analyzing the course syllabus, observing the instructor’s teaching style, communicating directly with the instructor, consulting course evaluations and peer feedback, and reflecting on your personal learning goals, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of the instructor’s objectives and tailor your approach accordingly.

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