Writing Objectives

Objectives are written statements which describe what the learner is expected to be able to do upon successful completion of the educational/learning event. Objectives are important because they provide the basis and direction for the instructional content and help in evaluating the success of the instruction. A good objective communicates the intent of the educational event with little room for interpretation.

Learning objectives are written using specific and measurable terms that describes what the learner will know or be able to do as a result of engaging in a learning activity. The ideal learning objective includes a measurable verb, the conditions (if any) under which the performance is to occur, and the criterion for acceptable performance. The action verb is the most important element of the objective because it states precisely what the learner will be able to do following the learning event.

Verbs are categorized by domains of learning and hierarchies. The three domains of learning are the cognitive (thinking), the affective (feeling), and the psychomotor (doing). The cognitive domain is the area that most of our learning events are focused so these are the verbs we will use most often. The cognitive domain is further divided into six categories. These categories are as follows: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. This system of categorizing learning domains and hierarchies was first done by Benjamin Bloom. Most educators today use Blooms Taxonomy to identify the appropriate action verbs in their learning objective.

These six hierarchies may be grouped into three levels that may make appropriate action verb selection easier. These levels are as follows:
Level 1 = Recall Knowledge and Comprehension
Level 2 = Interpretation Application and Analysis
Level 3 = Problem Solving Synthesis and Evaluation

How to Write an Objective

Once the level of the learning event has been identified, writing the objective can be done using the ABCD method. "A" is the audience or the learner (who), "B" is the behavior or action verb (will do), "C" is the condition/criteria (how much/of what), and "D" is the degree of achievement or acceptable performance (how well/by when).

When writing objectives there is a preferred order. The condition is usually placed first, followed by the behavior or the action verb, and then the criteria. Objectives are written in the future tense.

An objective always states what the learner is expected to be able to do. The objective may describe the conditions under which the learner will be able to do or perform. When possible the objective clarifies how well the learner performs the task, in order for the performance to be acceptable.

Levels within the Cognitive Domain

1. Knowledge involves recognition or recalling of definitions and specifics. The learner is expected to remember an idea, phenomena, or fact in the form it was presented.

2. Comprehension involves translation or associations. The learner is expected to communicate an idea in a new or different form (translations) and/or see relationships among things or events (associations). Generally, comprehension encompasses the process of explaining the material that has been learned.

3. Application involves using what one has learned in new situations. The learner is expected to relate or apply ideas in new situations or use what has been learned to solve a problem. Application involves using knowledge to find or develop new solutions or solve problems

4. Analysis involves examining elements, relationships, or organizational principles. The learner is expected to break things down to their component parts and uncover the characteristics of a concept or event.

5. Synthesis involves the ability to hypothesize or create a plan. The learner is expected to take things and reorganize them in a new way or to create new and original concepts. Synthesis involves inductive, not deductive reasoning, which is different from the other levels.

6. Evaluation involves the ability to judge, using standards and criteria, to arrive at informed decisions. The learner is expected to make judgments about things or events based on set criteria or accept/reject things based on established standards.

Examples of Objectives

  • Describe strategies of effective communication between charge nurses in relation to patient throughput.
  • Discuss the Gluten Free Diet and resources that are available to nursing staff and patients.
  • Analyze the clinical picture of altered tissue oxygenation using clinical, laboratory, and hemodynamic data.

How Many Objectives are required?

The number of objectives per learning event will vary. Typically, there is a learning objective for every topic presented. If there are multiple speakers on a program, there may be objectives for each speaker. If there is one speaker, one objective for every 60 minutes of content is the average. Keep in mind these are guidelines and the number of objectives can vary depending on the learning event.

Finally, remember that effective learning objectives are:
1. Consistent with the goal of the program/curriculum
2. Clearly stated
3. Clearly measurable
4. Realistic and doable
5. Appropriate for the level of the learner

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