A Validated Rubric for Scoring Learning Goals

Publication ID Published Volume
9369 March 15, 2013 9


Creation of learning goals is an essential component of life-long learning. In order to be effective, learning goals must be well crafted. No tool currently exists to assess the quality of learning goals.

We created a scoring rubric with four criteria designed to assess the quality of learning goals written by learners in health professions education. This rubric can be used as both a summative evaluation of a learner’s goal writing skills and as a means of providing feedback to improve written goals. The rubric is based on the ISMART mnemonic for high-quality learning goals which identifies key aspects for successful goals and includes the following criteria – Useful goals address IMPORTANT topics, are SPECIFIC, include MEASURABLE or clearly describable outcomes, have a mechanism of ACCOUNTABILITY, are REALISTIC and have a TIMELINE for accomplishment. (This comprehensive view of learning goals also applies to individual learning plans [ILPs].)

Although the rubric was based on the ISMART mnemonic, the final rubric includes 4 criteria each with descriptive anchors that are scored from 0 to 3. The four criteria are:

  1. Specific Goal,
  2. Important Goal,
  3. Realistic Multisource Plan,
  4. Measureable Outcome.

This resource includes the scoring rubric, a worksheet to guide learners in the creation of high-quality learning goals, and detailed instructions for using the scoring rubric including example goals to score as part of rater training.

As far as we know, this is the only scoring rubric for learning goals or learning plans designed specifically with medical education in mind. We have used the scoring rubric with pediatric residents over three years and it has provided a foundation for improving the quality of goals written by residents. With these improved goals we have been better able to use goals to individualize resident’s clinical experiences. Although most of our work using the scoring rubric has been with residents, we are beginning to use it with medical students and in different contexts such as with specific educational sessions or different rotations in the medical school and residency, showing that it is applicable to all levels of learners.


Lockspeiser T, Schmitter P, Lane J, Hanson J, Rosenberg A. A validated rubric for scoring learning goals. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2013;9:9369. http://doi.org/10.15766/mep_2374-8265.9369

Educational Objectives

  1. To reliably assess the quality of written learning goals and learning plans.


  • Self-directed Instruction, ISMART

Prior Scholarly Dissemination

Lockspeiser T, Rosenberg AA, Schmitter P & Lane JL. Creation of a learning goal scoring rubric. Poster presentation at Association for Pediatric Program Directors Conference, March 2012. 

Lockspeiser T, Rosenberg AA, Schmitter P & Lane JL. Creation of a learning goal scoring rubric. Platform presentation at Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting, April 2012.

Material Access

Please sign in to access this material.

Please register for an AAMC account if you do not have one.


  • My MedEdPORTAL
  • Contact Us

Subscribe to Our Quarterly Newsletter

Receive featured content & announcements!

ISSN 2374-8265