Instructional design/Learning objectives/Performance

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

When writing well-formed learning objectives, one of the most important tasks is to identify "what you want the learner to do." During this first lesson, you will learn to identify verb phrases that state a "performance" of a cognitive learning objective. This lesson describes Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain, provides examples of cognitive domain verbs and performance phrases, and allows several opportunities for practice and feedback. The lesson topics are:

  • Defining Performance
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain
  • Cognitive Domain Verb Usage
  • Cognitive Domain Verb Usage, Part 2
  • Examples and Non-Examples of Performance Phrases
  • Performance Self-Test

Defining Performance[edit | edit source]

The performance, or behavior, is a description of "what the learner must do" by the end of instruction. In addition, the behavior must be something we can see, evaluate, and should be described by using an action verb. The main characteristics of a performance are:

  • It is observable, and
  • It is measurable.


Sometimes the goal of instruction may be a behavior that is not observable, which means it is covert. These learning goals use words such as "know", "understand", or "distinguish". Since we cannot observe these behaviors, we need to include an indicator that allows us to observe the learner's performance.

For example:

w:Alabamaw:Alaskaw:Arizonaw:Arkansasw:Californiaw:Coloradow:Connecticutw:Delawarew:FloridaGeorgiaw:Hawaiiw:Idahow:Illinoisw:Indianaw:Iowaw:Kansasw:Kentuckyw:Louisianaw:Mainew:Marylandw:Massachusettsw:Michiganw:Minnesotaw:Mississippiw:Missouriw:Montanaw:Nebraskaw:Nevadaw:New Hampshirew:New Jerseyw:New Mexicow:New Yorkw:North Carolinaw:North Dakotaw:Ohiow:Oklahomaw:Oregonw:Pennsylvaniaw:Rhode Islandw:South Carolinaw:South Dakotaw:Tennesseew:Texasw:UtahVermontVirginiaw:Washingtonw:West Virginiaw:Wisconsinw:WyomingDelawareMarylandNew HampshireNew JerseyMassachusettsConnecticutWest VirginiaVermontRhode IslandMap of USA with state names.svg
About this image

"The learner will be able to know the capitals of each state" is not something that is observable and measurable. To "know" or "understand" a subject is a covert process which cannot be observed without providing an alternate method of measurement. However, I can determine if a learner knows the capitals of each state by writing the performance like this:


  • "The learner will be able to label each state capital on a map" or
  • "The learner will be able to list each state capital on a sheet of paper".


While "Know" and "Understand" are not observable; "List" and "label" are overt actions which can be assessed according to a standard.

Practice and Feedback[edit | edit source]

Now, let's identify some observable and measurable verbs. Click the appropriate box for each question, then click the submit button for the correct answers.

1 Which of these describes an overt action?

...identify a red blood cell that contains the sickle cell.
...recognize a red blood cell that contains the sickle cell.
...circle a red blood cell that contains the sickle cell.

2 Which of these is the best example of an observable action verb?

...determine
...diagram
...reflect


How did you do?
Click one of the links below for more explanation

References[edit | edit source]

Mager, Robert F. (1997) Preparing Instructional Objectives, Atlanta, GA: The Center for Effective Performance.

Navigation[edit | edit source]

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