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How to Write Effective Learning Objectives

 

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SUMMARY

In the world of online education, clear communication is paramount for student success. Recent research underscores the importance of well-defined learning objectives, particularly in e-learning environments. This blog post delves into the intricacies of crafting effective learning objectives, exploring the ABCDs—Audience, Behavior, Condition, and Degree—essential components in the instructional design process.

Learning objectives serve as roadmaps, guiding students on what is expected of them and what they should achieve by the end of the instruction. The post emphasizes that in e-learning courses, instructors must explicitly communicate with students about their expectations. The ABCDs framework is presented as a fundamental structure for crafting comprehensive learning objectives.

The Audience, the first component, is highlighted as the target population for the objective. Whether it's 10th-grade students or 5th-grade gym classes, defining the audience sets the stage for a focused and tailored learning experience. The Behavior component emphasizes the importance of using measurable and observable action verbs, ensuring that the desired outcome is clear and assessable. The post provides examples of effective and ineffective behaviors to illustrate this point.

Moving on to Condition, the third component, the blog explains how it sets the stage for the learning environment. Conditions may include cues, stimuli, or resources available to the learners during the performance of the objective. The Degree, or criteria, is the final component, determining how the performance will be measured. This can include accuracy percentages, repetition counts, or other measurable criteria.

To help educators navigate the challenging task of choosing appropriate action verbs, the blog offers a downloadable list of verbs classified according to Bloom's taxonomy. The importance of selecting verbs that are observable and measurable is stressed to ensure the effectiveness of learning objectives.

The post also delves into the process of creating learning objectives, touching upon the two types—terminal and enabling objectives. Terminal objectives outline what learners should know and do after completing a unit, while enabling objectives break down the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve the terminal objectives.

Despite the significance of learning objectives, the blog acknowledges challenges in their creation. The lack of well-defined analysis techniques and a systematic design process can lead to vague or unrelated objectives. The post encourages instructors to conduct a skills analysis and apply common sense to determine the scope and sequence of instruction.

In addressing objections to learning objectives, the blog asserts their importance in guiding learners, focusing their efforts, and serving as a basis for assessment methods. It dispels concerns about reducing instruction to small components, limiting discussions, or being unsuitable for certain subjects.

In conclusion, the blog establishes the ABCDs framework as a valuable tool for educators to create effective learning objectives in e-learning environments. By understanding and implementing these components, instructors can enhance the clarity and effectiveness of their online courses, ultimately contributing to improved student performance and engagement.

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES

 

TRANSCRIPT

Hello, and welcome to the eLearning and Instructional Design for Beginners podcast, where new and aspiring instructional designers start, grow, and advance their careers in instructional design and online learning development. I'm your host, Crystal Harper. I'm a former school teacher who transitioned to instructional design, all while working full-time as a single mom. Would you like to become a successful instructional designer without the burden of earning another degree? Well, then let's get started.

Research suggests that students perform better in an instructional situation if they have a clear understanding of what is expected of them, and this is especially important in e-learning courses.

Instructors should communicate to students what they are expected to know and be able to do as a result of the instruction. Such statements are known as learning objectives. The writing of objectives is probably one of the best-known components of the instructional design process. Since the 1960s, thousands of educators have been trained on writing learning objectives.

However, major difficulties emerged from this approach. In an e-learning course, learners need to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Instructors should communicate with the students what the students are to know and be able to do as a result of the instruction. Such statements are known as learning objectives.

Learning objectives describe what the learners should be able to do as a result of the e-learning course. They describe what learners can do and what they complete in a unit or module of instruction and are typically derived from a goal analysis. In comparison, enabling objectives describe the sub skills, knowledge, or attitudes learners require to achieve the terminal objective, and are derived from the skills in your goal analysis.

Remember that there are four major components of a learning objective. These different components are necessary in writing learning objectives. They are also what we call the ABCDs of learning objectives. The ABCDs include the audience, behavior, the condition, and the degree. As you recall, the audience describes the target population of the learning objective.

The behavior describes the skill, knowledge, or attitude that is to be observable. The condition states what the learner will be allowed to use, it will also describe what circumstances the expected performance will occur, and the degree or criteria describes how the performance will be measured, what is acceptable behavior, and or to what extent the learner is expected to exhibit the behavior.

Writing learning objectives. Here's an example. Given a list of animals, 10th-grade students will be able to list 10 names of invertebrates with 80 percent accuracy. This statement contains the essential components of an objective. The components are what we call the ABCDs of learning objectives. This is the audience, behavior, condition, and degree.

There are other forms of objectives that contain fewer or more components than the one covered here, but for the purposes of this course, we will stay with the basic four-component model. This course will review these four components. One of the four basic components of an objective is the audience. The target population who is expected to complete the objective should be defined.

Examples of the audience could be students, faculty, managers, or 5th grade boys and girls. I believe that it's important to make the target audience explicit, particularly when instructional designers are preparing objectives to communicate their designers to other instructional design or development team members.

However, when presenting objectives to students, the audience may be inferred or simply stated as you. Which of the following statements would you say defines the audience? Given all the available OSHA requirements, list the steps necessary in labeling a container with 80 percent accuracy. Or, the student will be able to list seven presidents with 100 percent accuracy.

If you chose Given all the available OSHA requirements list the steps necessary in labeling a container with 80 percent accuracy, think about the audience. This learning objective does have different components, but it does not actually state the audience. Remember that in a learning objective, the audience must be actually stated.

For example, the 8th-grade girls, or the 5th-grade gym classes, or the process technician. If you chose, the student will be able to list 7 presidents with 100 percent accuracy, excellent. This is not a complete performance objective, but it does state the first component, the audience. The audience can be stated in a general manner, as seen here.

Or it can be stated in more specific terms. For example, the second-grade students with an A average. The second component for writing an objective is the behavior. The behavior is typically an action verb that describes what learners are expected to know or be able to do. It should match the verb identified in your instructional analysis.

One of the difficult parts of writing a learning objective is to select an appropriate verb to describe the to-be-learned behavior. The verb in the objective should describe an observable action and should be measurable. It is important to remember that the best objectives are explicit and exclude meanings other than your intent.

such as to know versus to write. We cannot observe a person knowing, understanding, or appreciating, but we can observe a person writing, describing, or evaluating. In short, I believe that since objectives form the basis for student assessment, if it is not measurable, it would not be possible to determine precisely if students achieved the objective.

Be sure to download the attached list, action verbs, or behaviors that are observable and measurable. They are classified according to six levels of learning posited by Bloom. Which of these statements best describes a behavior? The student will be able to write the alphabet with 100 percent accuracy. Or, the student will acquire an appreciation for Mozart.

If you chose, the student will be able to write the alphabet with 100 percent accuracy, good job. You remembered that the most important part of the behavior was an observable verb. You can tell when someone is writing an alphabet. You can observe them actually doing it. This behavior is showing us a specific performance.

If you chose, the student will be able to acquire appreciation for Mozart, sorry. Just because learning the alphabet might seem more elementary than appreciating Mozart does not make Mozart the correct answer. It would be great if we could give someone an appreciation of Mozart, but how can we measure this?

How can we observe it? The verb appreciate does not help us. It is not explicit. How can we see someone appreciating Mozart? Words like appreciating, liking, and understanding can only be amplified, they cannot be observed. Review the list of verbs in relation to the given taxonomy. Remember to look at the level of learning and then pick a verb that will explicitly describe what you want the learner to do.

Words like stating, listing, and writing can explicitly describe a behavior. Many verbs involve fine motor skills, but behavior can also be observed by a verb like running, jumping, and skating. The third part of the learning objective is the condition. The condition may serve several functions. It may specify, A, the cue or stimulus that learners will use to search for information stored in memory, B, the characteristic of resource materials or tools required to perform the task, and or C, the scope and complexity of the task.

In short, it describes the conditions under which learners are expected to perform the specified behavior. Examples of condition are Given a list of 20 factors, given a thermometer, when provided with a calendar, or granted 2, 000, choose the statement that best describes the condition. When given a group of spelling words, the students will be able to put them in alphabetical order.

Or, 5th-grade students will be able to state the 6 state capitals with 100 percent accuracy. If you chose, when given a group of spelling words, the students will be able to put them in alphabetical order, terrific. This tells the learner that a group of spelling words are going to be given to them. They are not expected to decide what the spelling words are.

You remembered that the condition states what the learner will be allowed to use. If you chose, 5th grade students will be able to state the 6 capitals with 100 percent accuracy. Be able to state is a behavior, not a condition. It is important to remember that when we are dealing with a condition, the condition states the available resources.

The correct answer would be when given a group of spelling words, so on. The resources here are the spelling words. The student is told that they will be given the resources and will not have to decide what the spelling words are. A condition can state the situation and setting for the performance to take place.

Remember that the condition can tell the cue or stimulus used in a learning objective. The condition states what the learner will be allowed to use. Some more examples of conditions are given a definition, given six eggs and a glass of milk, given the music for Symphony 40, or when provided with scissors.

The fourth part of the learning objective is the degree, or criteria. The degree tells how the performance will be measured, and what is the acceptable completion for the required performance. The degree often relays a numeric measure and may include quantity, quality, efficiency, or durability. Examples of degree include how much? 80%. How often? 2 times. How accurate? Within 2 pounds. To what extent? With little to no assistance. Which of the following statements describes degree? Choose the correct answer. Given a list of spelling words and their notebooks, first graders will write their spelling words in alphabetical order with 90 percent accuracy.

Or, given a label and a marker, the process technician will label the hazardous materials kept in an OSHA-required container. If you chose, Given a list of spelling words and their notebooks, first graders will write their spelling words in alphabetical order with 90 percent accuracy. The 90 percent accuracy must have given it away.

It is numeric, we can measure it. This will tell you if the first graders are able to put their words in alphabetical order with a certain amount of accuracy. When we are dealing with degree, we are talking about the quality of a performance. In this case, by saying 90%, you knew that the student had to get 90 percent of their words in alphabetical order to be acceptable.

If you chose, given a label and a marker, the process technician will label the hazardous materials kept in an OSHA required container, well, it does sound like it is more important than putting words in alphabetical order, but we still do not have a degree or a number of how many containers are labeled correctly.

When we are dealing with degree, we are stating what is the acceptable amount of correct or incorrect answers that something has. Remember the examples. How much? Seventy percent. How often? Three times. How accurate? Within ten pounds. To what extent? With little to no assistance. So, now that you can recognize the four basic components of an objective and can write good objective statements, the question arises, where do objectives come from?

In part one of this course, we talked about the subject matter expert approach to instructional design. I noted that subject matter experts typically start the systematic design process by defining a list of objectives. I also discussed that this approach may result in the separation of some objectives that may not be related to a particular goal.

For instance, a subject matter expert may think certain skills and knowledge are important because of their particular area of expertise, rather than because the skill or knowledge are directly related to the goal. Subject matter experts may also fail to identify key objectives that are necessary to accomplish the goal because they have not analyzed the relationship between listed objectives.

In Part 1, you created a goal analysis and identified the major steps necessary to achieve your instructional goal. There are two types of objectives that need to be created for your course. Number one, terminal objectives. This is the major step you selected from your goal analysis, and these may be transformed into the terminal objective for your instructional unit or module.

Terminal objectives specify what learners should know and be able to do after completing the unit or module in your eLearning course. The enabling objectives specify what the learners must know and be able to do to accomplish the terminal objectives. Because your terminal objectives should already be written in your goal analysis, We will now talk a little bit more about how to write the enabling objectives following the goal analysis.

Instructors often begin the instructional design process by listing objectives that have already been defined by professional organizations, state boards, accrediting agencies, and local school districts. or by generating their own list based on their own past experiences and expertise. The problem with this approach is that it often results in some objectives that are not directly related to the goal or failure to identify objectives that are essential for meeting the goal.

In addition, when instructors begin the instructional design process by listing objectives, the relationship between the objectives is not always clear, making it difficult for learners to discern the connection among specified objectives or the relationship between the targeted objectives and prior knowledge.

You need to identify the skills and entry behaviors associated with the aligned core competency, or whole task. These skills will be your learning objectives. Objective writing is one of the most difficult and time-consuming of all tasks. So, after analyzing your instructional goal, your next task is to identify the skills and entry behaviors necessary to accomplish each step specified in your goal analysis.

Using the major steps in your goal analysis may or may not be the most appropriate manner for defining instructional modules or units for your e-learning course or training program. You must apply your experience, knowledge, and some common sense to determine the scope and sequence of your instruction.

Now you should conduct a skills analysis of all the major steps identified in your goal analysis, following the A, B, C, Ds that we discussed in this course. Then identify the logical clusters of skills and knowledge, and that becomes your instructional units or modules. Then arrange the clusters in a logical sequence to generate the overall scope and sequence of your instruction.

There are two major problems with learning objectives. First, without well-defined analysis techniques, e-learning instructors find it difficult to define objectives. With little to no training on goal analyses, instructors often revert to textbooks, their prior experiences, or others to identify topics for which to write objectives.

As a result, many trivial and abstractly related objectives are written. Second, without an overall systematic design process, instructors do not know what to do with the objectives once they are written. Instructors often list objectives to help focus learners’ attention, but do little else to align instruction or assessment.

with the objectives. Educators have raised additional objections to the use of learning objectives. Number one, reduce instruction to such small discrete components that learners often lose the trees from the forest. Number two, they limit class discussions in student learning. And number three, learning objectives can't be written for some areas such as humanities.

They communicate to learners what is expected of them and helps them to focus their efforts. Learning objectives communicate learners what is expected of them and helps them focus their effort. They are also used as a basis for determining assessment methods and instruments, as well as to help guide the development of instructional strategies and the selection of media.

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