Work Term Objectives and Reflections

The University of Ottawa's Co-operative Education Programs help you develop skills and abilities to excel in your field of choice. Setting work term objectives is a practical exercise that makes this achievement possible.

Performance Objectives

Performance objectives describe the specific goals you want to reach during your CO-OP placement in terms of your practical skills development. They combine elements from the job description, your supervisor's expectations of what you can accomplish, and your own performance expectations. When developing your performance objectives, consider skills and abilities specific to the field.

Learning Objectives

Learning objectives describe the specific goals you want to reach during your CO-OP placement in terms of knowledge acquisition. They combine elements from your academic discipline, your supervisor's expectations of what you can learn, and your own learning expectations.  When developing your learning objectives, consider principles or theories of practice specific to the field.

S.M.A.R.T.S. framework

Work term objectives are effective if they meet some basic criteria: (a) they use the S.M.A.R.T.S. format (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Rewarding, Time-sensitive, and Shared) and (b) they are understood as works in progress and in need of regular (re)vision.

Specific: Objectives need to be precise.

Oftentimes, objectives are too vague, for example, "I will work hard". A specific objective outlines precise details, for example, "I will thoroughly document my work and communicate my progress in weekly team meetings."

Measurable: Objectives need to be quantifiable.

Measurable objectives give concrete information, for example, "I will produce three mini reports and one final report during my work term." Including a number and being specific clarifies whether the objective has been met.

Achievable: Objectives need to be reasonable and achievable

At the onset, many students believe they can achieve more than what is reasonable given the available time, resources, and so on. Frequently, success or failure depends on setting practical goals. An unachievable objective would be, "I will revamp the entire SAP system by the end of the work term."

Rewarding: Objectives need to be important to you on a personal level.

Dreams are important. We do need to be wary of objectives such as, "I will overcome my fear of public speaking during this CO-OP work term." Nevertheless, it is important to stretch ourselves, try new things, and feel rewarded by our personal achievements.

Time-sensitive: Objectives need to have a set date and time.

A due date gives a sense of urgency-the impetus to take action-and therefore increases the likelihood that the objective will be met. In addition, a specific date allows some monitoring of progress.

Shared: Objectives need to be made public.

Work term objectives are effective when you share them with the CO-OP Programs and your work term supervisor. Consequently, at the beginning of the work term you are required to not only create objectives, but also initiate a meeting with your supervisor to discuss and approve the objectives. Once you have completed this step you will e-mail your objectives to the CO-OP Office and meet with an CO-OP Program Coordinator during the on-site visit to discuss your objectives. The on-site visit occurs at the mid-point of your work term..

Perfection not required

Work term objectives are rarely perfect. But, if you design them with care, an open mind, and the willingness to modify, you will be more effective and productive. In fact, with a little planning up front, you may well exceed your employer's expectations!

Work term reflections

The University of Ottawa's Co-operative Education Programs encourage you to take the time to consider your career path. Writing reflections on your work term will help you deepen your understanding of your values and beliefs and therefore, what career path will be the most rewarding for you.


Reflection questions enable critical thinking with regards to career path development.

Reflection no. 1

So far, what do you like and dislike about your work term and why? (For example, what do you think about the tasks, environment, people, roles and responsibilities?)

Example of a good, well-detailed response: It's important that I gain work experience, and the CO-OP work term is definitely providing that. But I've already discovered that there's more to CO-OP than just getting paid work experience. For example, I firmly believe that organizations need to act as good corporate citizens. I like that this company has been recognized as a leader in corporate citizenship, and it has encouraged me to participate in one of their initiatives. Corporate citizenship is something I will look for in my future employers. I dislike the commute.

Reflection no. 2

Based on your performance and learning so far, what strategies do you propose for continuing to boost your performance and learning for the remainder of the work term?

Example of a good, well-detailed response: In terms of performance, I complete all the tasks required, I am always prompt, and I work hard. I also make a special point of demonstrating my work ethic by listening carefully to what's required, seeking clarification when necessary and showing initiative by taking on more than what's expected. In terms of learning, I have been asked to chair two meetings, and this has called on my leadership skills and given me the chance to try some of the management strategies covered in my academic program.

However, I do need to learn more about human-resource policies and the strategic plan of the organization. Therefore, I will ask my supervisor to provide me with more information on these topics. If I show the initiative required to learn more, I would boost my performance and learning for the remainder of the term.

Example of a poor, incomplete response: At this time, I would give myself an "A" for my performance and learning. I complete all the tasks required, I am always prompt, and I work hard. Additionally, I am learning a lot.

Reflection no. 3

Based on the work you have done and anticipate completing over the rest of the placement, what do you think you will write about in your work term report?

Example of a good, well-detailed response: My work term report will focus on what I have learned, with a special emphasis on labour relations.

Example of a poor, incomplete response: My work term report will probably demonstrate what I learned from my work term.

To ensure a successful work term

Working closely with your supervisor is key to being successful in the CO-OP education learning experience. By meeting with your supervisor early in the work term and regularly throughout the placement period, you will be better able to:

  • Clearly articulate specific job requirements and performance expectations.
  • Apply your academic learning in the work environment.
  • Focus your efforts and be productive from the start.
  • Work efficiently and see the results of your efforts.
  • Recognize and benefit from available performance opportunities.
  • Work with greater motivation and energy.
  • Increase your involvement in the job as the term progresses.
  • Improve your performance from one term to the next.

In short, work term objectives help you give your very best - and have the best possible placement experience.

Success in developing, setting, and meeting your objectives depends on the partnership between the work supervisor, the student, and the Co-operative Education Programs

Supervisor responsibilities
  • Meet with the student early in the placement to discuss job requirements and the student's learning aspirations.
  • Work with the student to design and set work term objectives.
  • Sign a copy of the work term objectives form
  • Train and support the student in order that they may achieve success.
  • Meet regularly with the student to review their performance and provide guidance.
  • Review the student's progress with the CO-OP Coordinator during the mid-term evaluation.
  • Complete the final student evaluation based on the work term objectives.
Student Responsibilities
  • Attend the CO-OP program workshop on setting work-term objectives.
  • Prepare preliminary work term objectives.
  • Set meeting with your work supervisor to (1) articulate learning aspirations and (2) understand expected performance targets.
  • Design and set work objectives. Sign a copy of the work-term objectives form.
  • Continually review, refine, and improve work performance.
  • Meet regularly with your supervisor to review performance and receive guidance.
  • Review progress with the CO-OP Coordinator during the mid-term evaluation.
  • Reflect upon the work experience: What have you learned? How could you apply this experience?
CO-OP programs' responsibilities
  • Train you to set clear and detailed work-term objectives.
  • Answer your questions and those of your employer.
  • Do follow-up with you and your employer after the mid-term evaluation.
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