Writing Instructional Objectives

Citation: Huitt, W. (2002). Writing instructional objectives. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from http://www.edpsycinteractive.org/topics/plan/instrobj.html

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Writing Instructional Objectives

Instructional objectives are statements of educational expectations for students. Although research has not demonstrated a strong link between writing objectives and student achievement (perhaps because well-written objectives are not always properly implemented or taught), it is still considered good educational practice to have written objectives in order to facilitate communication to students about expected outcomes.

There are a number of approaches to writing instructional objectives. Mager (1997) proposed writing very specific statements about observable outcomes (called behavioral objectives) that include descriptions of the behavior to be demonstrated, the conditions under which the behavior will be demonstrated, and the criteria for demonstration of mastery performance.  Mager suggested objectives can be built up to become a curriculum (an inductive approach). An example of a Mager objective is: Given 3 minutes of class time, the student will solve 9 out of 10 multiplication problems of the type: 5 X 4 = _____.

Gronlund (1999) proposed starting with a general statement and then providing specific examples of topics to be covered or behaviors to be observed (a deductive approach). He does not advocate inclusion of the conditions and criteria in the statement. An example of a Gronlund objective is:
The student can perform simple multiplication.
a. can define what multiplication means, in his our her own words
b. can define relevant terms such as "multiplier" and "product"
c. can solve problems of the type 5 X 4 = ______.

Eisner (1997) proposed that not all instructional objectives should focus on outcome; some should focus on the learning process itself (expressive objectives). Two examples are:
a. Students will attend a live symphony performance.
b. Students will use multiplication in everyday activities.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach, Mager's approach is the most widely used and perhaps the most inclusive.

Behavioral Objective Defined

Three Parts of a Behavioral Objective

  1. Student Behavior -- skill or knowledge to be gained (e.g., two digit numbers, vocabulary words) and the action or skill the student is able TO DO (e.g., define, count, label, categorize, analyze, design, evaluate, add, multiply, etc.)
  2. Conditions of Performance -- under what circumstances or context will the behavior be performed
  3. Performance Criteria -- how well is the behavior is to done; compared to what standard

Example of a well-written behavioral objective:

Behavioral objectives can be written for any of the domains of instruction (i.e., cognitive, affective, or psychomotor.)

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