Writing Effective Objectives: Part 2

    In an earlier blog, we discussed the fundamentals of objectives, specifically: why create objectives and what makes objectives effective. We described an objective as a clear statement of what we expect the learners to be able to do by the end of the learning program. We defined effective objectives as being specific, measurable and learner-centered.

    Some of you use the criteria to guide the setting of your objectives by using the mnemonic acronym S.M.A.R.T. or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

    Components of an Objective

    One way to ensure your objectives are effective is to focus on the components of the objective, ensuring each is effective.

    There are three components of a complete objective:

    1. The Performance that describes what the learner will be able to do;
    2. The Conditions that identify the circumstances of performance and the tools, references and human support available during the performance;
    3. The Criteria that state the performance standards required.

    Identifying the performance (shown in bold blue) is the first step. The verb used in an objective specifies the target performance. Typically, you use an “action” verb that is observable and measurable.

    Example 1:

    Given a computer with internet access, the learner will be able to set up a new online banking account with viewing, transferring and payment privileges in 10 minutes or less.

    The second component of an effective objective are the conditions (shown in example 2 in bold green italics).

    Example 2:

    Given a computer with internet access, the learner will be able to set up a new online banking account with viewing, transferring and payment privileges in 10 minutes or less.

    A simple example of conditions will clarify this.

    The learner will “change a flat tire” looks like an effective objective since it is measurable, specific and centered on what the learner can do. However, compare it to the following:

    The learner will “change a flat tire, any time of the day, in all weather conditions and on public roads”. The conditions under which the final performance must be demonstrated will have a significant influence on the skills and knowledge included in the learning program.

    The last component of the objective is a description of the criteria or standard(s). (Shown in example 3 in underlined bold red) that the performance will be measured against.

    Example 3:

    Given a computer with internet access, the learner will be able to set up a new online banking account with viewing, transferring and payment privileges in 10 minutes or less.

    It includes an element that will help define the successful achievement of an objective. In example 1B, the standard identified three privileges and a ten-minute time limit meaning that if the learner took longer or could only set up one or two privileges, they would not have achieved the required outcome.

    This level of detail is rarely seen in the objectives given out at the start of a learning program. However, this level of detail is needed by instructional designers so that appropriate applications (practice) and tests can be planned.

    Action Verbs

    Writing effective objectives when the outcome of the program is the performance of skill(s) is quite simple. Most verbs selected for these objectives are measurable; you just need to choose the specific verb that best describes what learners are expected to accomplish. Do learners need to make a caesar salad or just list the ingredients, the amount of each ingredient, and the supplies or tools required to make one?

    Sample Performance-Based Verbs

    Access–Assemble–Bake–Build–Calculate–Call–Construct–Create–Install–Locate–Repair–Etc.

    However, when the outcome of the learning program requires increased knowledge or mental ability, it gets a little more difficult.

    Between 1956 and 1972, Benjamin Bloom wrote about a taxonomy of educational objectives. He first identified three domains:

    • Cognitive domain-acquisition and application of knowledge
    • Affective domain- attitudes and feelings resulting from the learning process
    • Psychomotor domain-manipulative or physical skills

    Then he broke the cognitive domain down further into six levels of difficulty:

    Click on Image to Enlarge
    In 2001, Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl revised the taxonomy renaming “Synthesis” as “Creation” and making it the highest level of difficulty. We have adapted all of this work into the following taxonomy:

    Click on Image to Enlarge
    For a complete list of FKA’s action verbs for each level of the revised taxonomy, please contact gnolan@fka.com

    These action verbs, when chosen carefully, help instructional designers write effective objectives at the appropriate cognitive level.

    All programs in the FKA curriculum have been designed using effective performance, module, and lesson objectives as the foundation. Visit www.fka.com for a complete listing and description of these programs.


    FKA President
    Michael Nolan
    President


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