What is an objective?
A learning objective is a detailed description of what students will be able to do when they complete a component of instruction. Robert Mager, in his book Preparing Instructional Objectives, describes an objective as "a collection of words and/or pictures and diagrams intended to let others know what you intend for your students to achieve" (p.3). An objective does not describe what the instructor will be doing, but instead the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that the instructor will be attempting to produce in learners. This is a very important distinction. Mager emphasizes the need for clear, precise statements of what students should be able to do when they complete their instruction. He believes that this should be done before any development work is started.
Teachers should establish mental set at the onset of the lesson by clearly stating the learning objectives. In the set, teachers should first focus the students’ attention on the concept or skill to be studied and then relate the learning to prior learning or real-life situations.
Selecting the Objective
Selecting the objective is a process of breaking down complex learning into critical parts, then deciding which part to start teaching (based on what the students know or don’t know) in an effort to ensure student learning. Teachers should select those learning objectives that are at or near the correct level of difficulty and complexity for the students.
Bad: The students will solve addition problems with 80% accuracy.
Better: The student will correctly solve at least 8 out of 10 addition problems that require borrowing.
Best: Given two numbers not written in equation form, the students will place the numbers in equation form and add them together (some will require borrowing). Example Resource: Writing Objectives
Learning Objectives: Stems and Samples
Generally, learning objectives are written in terms of learning outcomes: What do you want your students to learn as a result of the lesson? Follow the three-step process below for creating learning objectives.
After completing the lesson, the student will be able to . . .
After this unit, the student will have . . .
By completing the activities, the student will . . .
At the conclusion of the course/unit/study the student will . . .
Resource: Learning Objectives: Stems and Samples
Setting Objectives through Learning Contracts
A learning contract is a working agreement between student and teacher concerning how that student will meet specific learning objectives. They can include such things as:
- What the student will learn.
- Time period for completion.
- What he/she will do to meet these objectives.
- How he/she will assess their own learning.
- How the teacher will assess their learning.
Resource: Best Practices Learning Contracts
Both language objectives and content objectives should be clearly posted on the board for all students to see. Throughout the lesson the teacher may want to relate the objective of what students will learn as it is clearly articulated within the lesson. Also associations to content objectives could be made to support language development. The teacher can easily accomplish the learning objective as they clearly integrated the objective within the activity of the lesson. (See Video)
- In the video how many different ways was the objective introduced?
- How were students incorporated into the statement of the objective?
- What other ways can you get students to participate in objective setting?