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Developing Course Objectives

metaphor for developing objectives

Objectives describe what learners will be able to do at the end of instruction, and they provide clear reasons for teaching. When writing objectives be sure to describe the intended result of instruction rather than the process of instruction itself.

blue arrow Reasons for Objectives

blue arrow Components of an Objective

blue arrow Kinds of Objectives

blue arrow Difference Between Goals and Objectives

blue arrow Building Objectives

blue arrow Action Verbs for Objectives

Adapted from Understanding Objectives ,
San Diego State University

Reasons for objectives:

Clearly defined learning objectives are useful for instructors,   instructional designers and students:

  • In order to select and design instructional content, materials or methods and  have a sound basis by which success can be measured.
  • To give designers and instructors an objective method to determine how successful their material has been. By clearly stating the results we want the learners to accomplish, instructors can identify whether students have gained the appropriate skills and knowledge.
  • Because objectives should be stated before learners begin their instructional materials, they provide students the means to organize their efforts toward accomplishing the desired behaviors.

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Components of an objective:

When writing learning objectives, avoid terms that cannot be clearly understood by the reader. It is necessary to communicate an objective as clearly as possible to avoid misinterpretation.

A useful objective successfully describes an intended instructional result by describing the purpose of the instruction. The BEST statement is one that excludes the greatest number of possible meanings other than the one  intended. In other words, it succeeds in communicating the intent of instruction yet avoids misinterpretation.

The ABCD's of Learning Objectives includes four characteristics that help an objective communicate an intent:

  • Audience - Who will be doing the behavior?
  • Behavior - What should the learner be able to do?
  • Condition - Under what conditions do you want the learner to be able to do it?
  • Degree - How well must it be done?

The learners:
Identify who it is that will be doing the performance (not the instructor).

Behavior (Performance):
What the learner will be able to do
Make sure it is something that can be seen or heard.

The conditions under which the learners must demonstrate their mastery of the objective:
What will the learners be allowed to use? What won't the learners be allowed to use?

Degree (or criterion)
HOW WELL the behavior must be done:
Common degrees include: Speed, Accuracy, Quality

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Kinds of Objectives

Objectives can be written for any type of learning. A common way to categorize learning is by the domain in which it occurs. The three domains and ensuing type of objectives include:

Cognitive Thought or knowledge
Objectives describe: "what the student is able to do" (an observable)
Affective Feelings or choices
Objectives describe : "how the student chooses to act"
Psychomotor Physical skills
Objectives describe: "what the student can perform"

Written objectives take two forms depending on the domain of learning. Examples include:

"Learner will be able to" (LWBAT)
Used for:
Cognitive objectives
Psychomotor objectives

"Learner will choose to" (LWCT)
Used for:
Affective objectives

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Difference Between Goals and Objectives

Goals are broad objectives are narrow.
Goals are general intentions; objectives are precise.
Goals are intangible; objectives are tangible.
Goals are abstract; objectives are concrete.
Goals can't be validated as is; objectives can be validated.

Goal: To know about the human body.
Objective: LWBAT name 200 of the 206 bones in the human body without referring to the textbook.

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Building Objectives

Remember the ABCD's of writing clear learning objectives:
Audience, Behavior, Condition, and Degree.

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Action Verbs

Action verbs help to align objectives to an observable behavior. The following resource provides a good list of action verbs that are effective in learning objectives.

Education Oasis, Action Verbs for Lesson Objectives,

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