WRITING INSTRUCTIONAL OBJECTIVES
Kathy V. Waller, PhD, CLS(NCA) NAACLS Board of Directors
Educators have used instructional, or behavioral, objectives for at least four decades. Robert Mager’s little text, Preparing Instructional Objectives, first printed in 1962, assisted many instructors in formulating and writing objectives. Since then, the use of objectives has become commonplace in education. The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) also affirms the value of objectives. Specifically, Essentials 12 and 13 address the importance of incorporating objectives within the curriculum and specific units of study. The purpose of this unit is to assist the educator in writing objectives using a standard protocol. Objectives are not difficult to write if one follows the guidelines noted below. Instructional objectives are written for the student and they state what the student is expected to do following instruction. Objectives are specific, observable, and measurable learning outcomes. In contrast, goals are general and non-specific. Goals are appropriate for an entire course or a curriculum of study, while objectives are written for individual units of study. There are benefits to incorporating objectives within our coursework. Objectives emphasize major points and reduce non-essential material. Objectives simplify note taking and cue the students to emphasize major points. Objectives assist students in organizing and studying content material. They guide the students to what is expected from them and help them to study important information. Objectives assist the student in studying more efficiently. Finally, when examination items mirror objectives, students can use the objectives to anticipate test items. There are four components of an objective: 1) the action verb, 2) conditions, 3) standard, and 4) the intended audience (always the student). The action verb is the most important element of an objective and can never be omitted. The action verb states precisely what the student will do following instruction. Verbs are categorized by domains of learning and various hierarchies. Benjamin Bloom and his colleague, David Krathwohl, were pioneers in categorizing the domains and levels. The three domains of learning are the cognitive domain that emphasizes thinking; the affective domain highlighting attitudes and feelings; and the psychomotor domain featuring doing. The first domain that was characterized by Bloom was the cognitive, which is further divided into six levels or hierarchies.
Cognitive (Thinking) Domain Knowledge Comprehension Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation Sometimes the six hierarchies or levels listed above are grouped into three categories: Level 1. Recall – Knowledge and Comprehension Level 2. Interpretation – Application and Analysis Level 3. Problem-Solving – Synthesis and Evaluation Recall objectives are at the basic taxonomic level and involve recall or description of information. Interpretation is a higher level of learning and involves application and examination of knowledge. Problem-solving skills test the highest level of learning and involve construction and assessment of knowledge. Examples of appropriate verbs for use with each of the three domains follow.
Writing Objectives: Key Verbs Cognitive (Thinking) Domain
The following key verbs will help to write good objectives and also establish a relative "taxonomic level" for each Objective. EVALUATION Appraise Approve Assess Choose Conclude Confirm Criticize Critique Diagnose Evaluate Judge Justify Prioritize Prove Rank Rate Recommend Research Resolve Revise Rule on Select Support Validate
SYNTHESIS Arrange Assemble Build Combine Compile Compose Conceive Construct Create Design Devise Discover Draft Formulate Generate Integrate Make Manage Organize Plan Predict Prepare Propose Reorder Reorganize Set up Structure Synthesize
ANALYSIS Analyze Appraise Audit Break down Calculate...
References: Bloom, Benjamin S., (Ed.), Taxonomy of Education Objectives: Handbook I: Cognitive Domain, N.Y., David McKay Company, Inc. 1956. Mager, Robert, Preparing Instructional Objectives, Palo Alto, California, Fearon Press, 1962. Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S. and Masia, B.B. Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook II. The Affective Domain. N.Y., David McKay Company, Inc. 1964. Harrow, A. J. A Taxonomy of the Psychomotor Domain. N.Y. David McKay Company, Inc. 1972.
Ford, Charles W., (Ed.), Clinical Education for Allied Health Professions, St. Louis, C.V./ Mosby Company, 1978. Karni, Karen, Writing Great Objectives and Exam Questions. Presented at the Clinical Laboratory Educators Conference, Salt Lake City, UT. 2000
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