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Objectives Writing Overview

At the start of the development process, you will usually ask “what do I want the learners to be able to do?” by the end of a lesson, the course, or even the program.  Many begin with statements that focus on understanding, valuing, appreciating, or knowing something important about the course content.  These goals give you a great roadmap to laying out your lesson objectives.

Learning goals, objectives, and outcomes

In 1956, Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain was completed to help guide educators in developing educational goals and objectives.  Then in 1962, Robert Mager argued for the use of specific measurable objectives that guide the instructor and aid students through the learning process.  Central to Mager’s argument was that the learning goal should be broken into a subset of smaller tasks or learning objectives.

During the course development process, you may hear the terms goals, objectives, and outcomes used.  Goals are given to the course as a whole and provide insight into the desired outcomes but do not designate how student achievement will be assessed and evaluated.  On the other hand, learning outcomes and objectives are often used interchangeably.  The learning objective is a written statement of the measurable achievement a participant will be able to demonstrate as a result of participation in a learning activity.

Characteristics of Learning Objectives

  • Expressed in terms of the learner
  • Clarify faculty expectations for the lesson
  • Focused on improving student learning
  • Guide class activities, assignments, and exams (assessment alignment)
  • Assessment of student learning provides information on how the student measures according to the learning outcome
  • Assessment of learning outcomes can inform instructional effectiveness


Well-written learning objectives contain actions that are observable and measurable through student performance.  Using clear and direct language and Bloom’s Taxonomy strengthen the objective even more.

Cognitive Objectives: Bloom’s Taxonomy

The bottom levels of the Bloom’s Taxonomy pyramid include knowledge and comprehension, which focus on acquiring content information and recalling it.  Application and analysis focus on applying or analyzing the acquired information.  When developing honors learning content, activities, and assessments focusing on the analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of information can help create a rich and engaged learning experience.  These levels allow for more hands-on experience and new and unique knowledge creation.  New and unique knowledge creation are the main goal of higher levels of learning – we want our learners to take the information they have gained and make something new with it.

Anderson and Krathwohl revised the Bloom’s Taxonomy in 2001 and equate comprehension to understanding; however, the Teaching and Learning for Understanding framework views the verb, “to understand” as the highest cognitive level.

CELT link Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy

The Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy from Iowa State University’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) combines the knowledge and cognitive process domains.  The knowledge domain focuses on moving from concrete to abstract knowledge, whereas the cognitive process domain focuses on moving from lower order to higher order thinking skills.  For more information on the revised taxonomy, visit the CELT Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives.

Psychomotor Objectives

Psychomotor domain includes three taxonomies developed by Simpson (1972), Dave (1970), and Harrow (1972), which progress from involuntary responses (simplest, lowest level reflexes) through to learned capabilities (complex, high-level neuromuscular coordination) (Seels & Glasgow, 1990).

Simpson’s (1972) taxonomy includes perception, set, guided response, mechanism, complex overt response, adaptation, and origination.  For more information, read UCONN’s Simpson’s Psychomotor Learning Objectives.

Dave’s (1970) taxonomy includes imitation, manipulation, precision, articulation, and naturalization.  This taxonomy progresses from observing and copying someone else to combining, sequencing, and performing skills automatically.

Harrow’s (1972) taxonomy includes reflex movements, basic fundamental movements, perceptual abilities, physical activities, skilled movements, and non-discursive communication.

These taxonomies can be synthesized into the following:

Observing

Physically observe an actual event

Watch figure skater performance

Imitating

Attempt to copy a physical behavior

First attempt to learn the skill, such as skating forward and backward under observation of a coach, who then provides feedback.

Practicing

Trying a physical activity over and over

Movements become more automatic as the learner repeats the activity sequence.

Adapting

Fine tuning physical activity in order to perfect it

The skill is perfected and feedback from a coach or mentor allows for outside perspective for improvement or adjustment of movements.

 

Psychomotor activity example versus non-example:

Example

Non-Example

  • How to mountain climb
  • Cut down a tree
  • Build a soapbox derby car
  • List gear used to mountain climb
  • Understand when to cut down a tree
  • List types of soapbox derby cars

Click here for a list of Psychomotor Behavioral Verbs

Additional resources on Psychomotor taxonomies:

Armstrong, R. J. et al. (1970).  Developing and Writing Behavioral Objectives. Tucson, AZ:  Educational Innovators Press.

Harrow, A.J. (1972). A taxonomy of the psychomotor domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Simpson, E. (1972). The classification of educational objectives in the psychomotor domain:

The psychomotor domain. Vol. 3. Washington, DC: Gryphon House.

 

Affective (Attitude) objectives

Affective objectives are concerned with changing an individual’s emotions, attitudes, choices, and relationships.  Krathwohl, Bloom, and Masia (1973) arranged the affective taxonomy from simpler to more complex feelings.     

Level

Definition

Example

Key Verbs

Receiving

Learner’s sensitivity to the existence of stimuli and awareness to one’s environment.

Learner reads a book about art history.

Feel
Accept
Capture
Experience
Attend
Perceive

Responding

Learner’s active attention to stimuli and motivation to learn as a result of an experience.

Learner answers questions about the book, reads another book about Post-Modern art, etc.

Comply
Discuss
Allow
Cooperate
Contribute
Enjoy Satisfy

Valuing

Learner’s beliefs and attitudes of worth that show a commitment or involvement to a value.

Learner seeks out art exhibit to voluntarily visit.

Believe
Devote
Seek
Justify
Respect
Search
Persuade
Pursue

Organization

Learner’s internalization of new values and beliefs into one’s own value system, which are organized by priority as the values become internalized.  

Learner volunteers at a local art gallery.

Examine
Clarify
Create
Integrate
Systematize
Discriminate
Codify
Weigh

Characterization

The highest form of internalization where the learner acts consistently with the new values or beliefs.

Learner firmly commits to becoming an art collector.

Internalize
Review
Conclude
Resolve
Judge
Verify

Affective objectives are often avoided by science and math disciplines because those fields are viewed as logical.  However, cooperative and collaborative group exercises have the potential for affective growth.  Additionally, if a student is working on testing and creating new and unique ideas by testing a hypothesis or drawing conclusions, the student is taking an intellectual risk that may boost self-confidence (Wilson, 2015).

Eisner’s Method of Expressive Objectives

Eisner proposed that not all instructional objectives should focus on outcomes and that instructional objectives could be expressive objectives, which may produce new knowledge as a result of the educational encounter.  Expressive objectives involve experience-based opportunities and focus on changing the learner’s attitude about the subject matter.

Using Affective and Expressive Objectives

Objective Example:  Manifest knowledge, sensitivity, and humility about a diverse range of opinions resulting from ethnic, cultural, and national differences.

List of Affective and Expressive Objectives:

Receiving

Responding

Valuing

Organization

Characterization

Accept

Acknowledge

Attend (to)

Follow

Listen

Meet

Observe

Receive

Agree

Allow

Answer

Ask

Assist

Attempt

Choose

Communicate

Comply

Conform

Cooperate

Demonstrate

Describe

Discuss

Display

Exhibit

Follow

Give

Help

Identify

Locate

Notify

Obey

Offer

Participate (in)

Practice

Present

Read

Relay

Reply

Report

Respond

Select

Try

Adopt

Aid

Care (for)

Complete

Compliment

Contribute

Delay

Encourage

Endorse

Enforce

Evaluate

Expedite

Foster

Guide

Initiate

Interact

Join

Justify

Maintain

Monitor

Praise

Preserve

Propose

Query

React

Respect

Seek

Share

Study

Subscribe

Suggest

Support

Thank

Uphold

Anticipate

Collaborate

Confer

Consider

Consult

Coordinate

Design

Direct

Establish

Facilitate

Follow through

Investigate

Judge

Lead

Manage

Modify

Organize

Oversee

Plan

Qualify

Recommend

Revise

Simplify

Specify

Submit

Synthesize

Test

Vary

Weigh

Act

Administer

Advance

Advocate

Aid

Challenge

Change

Commit (to)

Counsel

Criticize

Debate

Defend

Disagree

Dispute

Empathize

Endeavor

Enhance

Excuse

Forgive

Influence

Motivate

Negotiate

Object

Persevere

Persist

Praise

Profess

Promote

Promulgate

Question

Reject

Resolve

Seek

Serve

Strive

Solve

Tolerate

Volunteer (for)

Formula objective writing

Learning outcome = Time Frame + Student focus + Action verb + Product/process/outcome

ABCD objective writing

  • A – Audience:  Who will be performing the behavior (“The student should be able to…”)?
  • B – Behavior:  What will the learner be able to do or the product or result of doing?
  • C – Condition:  Under what conditions do you want the learner to be able to do it?
  • D – Degree:  The criterion of acceptable performance.  How well must it be done?

Resources:

http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching-resources/effective-practice/revised-blooms-taxonomy/

http://www.clemson.edu/assessment/assessmentpractices/referencematerials/documents/Blooms%20Taxonomy%20Action%20Verbs.pdf

http://assessment.uconn.edu/primer/goals1.html

http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/assessment/howto/basics/objectives.html

http://iacbe.org/oa-goals-outcomes-objectives.asp

http://www.schreyerinstitute.psu.edu/assessment/definition

http://thesecondprinciple.com/instructional-design/threedomainsoflearning/

Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., Masia, B.B. (1973). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, the Classification of Educational Goals. Handbook II: Affective Domain. New York: David McKay Co., Inc.

 

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