Instructional design/Learning objectives
The crafting of well-formed learning objectives is becoming a lost art in instructional design circles. The time devoted to teaching the proper construction of learning objectives in bachelor- and masters-level courses is low, and numerous pundits in the field have dismissed the relative importance of learning objectives. [Substantiation required] But there are many reasons why we should care about learning objectives. For example, Gronlund (2000) identifies some of the benefits of objectives:
- They provide an instructional focus for participants (learners, instructors, and instructional designers).
- They provide participants with guidelines for learning and teaching.
- They provide standards for assessment (including self-assessment) and evaluation.
- They communicate instructor and course expectations to participants.
- They communicate instructional intent.
- They provide instructional designers with guidelines for selecting media, materials, and strategies.
Well-formed learning objectives, like user requirements for software products or SMART objectives for project management, result in more robust and creative instructional solutions. For many instructional designers, the ability to craft such objectives is a significant advantage when designing successful learning experiences.
The Structure of Learning Objectives
Since it is important to learn how to write objectives, we need to identify the components of a well-written learning objective. One of the most common descriptions is provided by Robert Mager. He describes the three major components as follows:
- Performance: The objective should describe what the participant should be able to do; also referred to as behavior.
- Condition: The objective should describe under what constraints the participant’s performance occurs.
- Criterion: The objective should determine at what point the performance is acceptable; it describes the standards that must be met.
For example, the objective for this, the current module of instruction, is:
Given a content scenario that reflects a cognitive skill(s), a cognitive verb job aid, and a writing-objectives checklist, the participant will be able to write a well-formed learning objective for that content. The components of the objective must answer 90% of a writing-objectives checklist.
The breakdown of the components of this objective is:
Performance: The participant will be able to write a well-formed learning objective for that content.
Condition: Given a content scenario that reflects a cognitive skill, a cognitive verb job aid, and a writing-objectives checklist, the participant will be able to [do a certain thing].
Criterion: The components of the objective must answer 90% of a writing-objectives checklist.
Learning to Write Well-Formed Objectives: Overview
To learn how to write well-formed objectives, we will look at each of the components separately, then put them all together at the end. The following is an overview of the lessons for writing objectives.
If this is your first time here, you can navigate through the entire module by clicking the next button at the bottom of each page. The module takes approximately one hour to complete. Otherwise, for quick access to a specific page, click one of the following links:
- Lesson 1 (15 minutes): Performance for Learning Objectives
- Lesson 2 (10 minutes): Conditions for Learning Objectives
- Lesson 3 (15 minutes): Criterion for Learning Objectives
- Lesson 4 (20 minutes): Writing a Well-Formed Learning Objective
Gronlund, N.E. (2000). How to write and use instructional objectives, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill
Mager, R.F. (1997). Preparing Instructional Objectives, 3rd ed. Atlanta, Georgia: The Center for Effective Performance, Inc.
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For Further Study:
- Why Write Objectives - A short essay on the importance of writing learning objectives
- Learning Objective Formats - A summary of formats for writing learning objectives
- Developing Course Objectives - Guidelines for developing course objectives
- Writing Objectives - ABCD objective examples
Click Next to go to the first lesson: Performance for Learning Objectives
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