Objectives and Purpose of Your Lesson
H. Jurgen Combs
OBJECTIVES AND PURPOSE - As you begin the lesson, outline the objectives with the students so they clearly know what it is that they are supposed to be able to do as a result of having gone through the lesson. The objectives need to be written in behavioral terms. Be sure to relate your objectives to the Virginia Standards of Learning.  Strive to associate every objective with one of the SOL's. (Other states or districts may have other standards that students are expected to achieve.)  An objective and SOL are NOT the same; SOL's are broader in scope while objectives are more immediate in nature and are intended to be assessed at the end of the lesson to insure student understanding.

Your objectives are shared with the students at the beginning of the class; they do not need to be stated necessary in the behavioral terms, but students need to have a clear understanding of what the expected learning for the day is to be and what they need to do to demonstrate competence.  At the end of the lesson, during closure, you will re-connect to the objectives and do a last check, before students leave the room, to give you a clear idea of whether they have mastered the objective/competency.

When the teacher states the objectives, s/he clearly informs the student what to expect and what to be able to accomplish by the end of the instruction. The objective should be specific in content and focus on observable behavior. The objective should let the student know what was going to happen in his/her own language - - restating the lesson objective in their own words.

There are three types of objectives:

  1. Cognitive
  2. Psycho-motor
  3. Affective

Your lesson should have a variety of objectives in it.  Generally, your lesson will have 2 to 5 or 6 objectives.

When you teach to the objective, you

  1. generate in the learner overt behavior relevant to the objective in a way that is efficient (use of time), effective (desired results), and relevant (pointed toward the objective).
  2. Use
    • explanation - includes definitions, examples, modeling, process ("how to"), and content (basic facts or concepts).
    • questioning - sampling (one student at a time), whole group, signaled response
    • responding to the learner in terms of the learning
    • Activities - guided, independent

The concept of objectives first appeared in the literature in the 1930's, when Tyler (1934) wrote about the need for goal directed statements from teachers. He was concerned that teachers appeared to be more concerned about the content being taught than with what the students should be able to do with the knowledge, i.e., is it meaningful or can it be applied.

When you select the objectives, be sure they are at an appropriate level by following these steps:

  • task analysis - the process of breaking down complex learnings into simper parts, then sequencing the parts for predictably efficient and effective student achievement.
  • steps to task analysis in sequential order
    • select the tentative objective
    • brainstorm for possible enroute learnings
    • weed out nonessential enroute learnings
    • sequence enroute learnings
    • form diagnostic questions (Can the learner ....?)

Objectives differ from goals in that they are very specific and are behavioral, meaning that the outcome can be observed. Good objectives contain the following components.

A specific behavioral objective this must be observable and is a learning outcome and focuses on the learner
The condition specifies under what circumstances the learner is expected to demonstrate competency, for example what materials the learner should use, what facilities may be needed, and how much time the learner has
The criterion level specifies the amount of behavior that is expected to insure competency in the task


The steps in Specifying the Learning Outcomes

A brief overview of Objectives:

  • A description of the intended outcomes of your teaching; these may describe:
    • Information that you intend your students to know or use.
    • Describe the skill that you intend your student to perform or demonstrate.
    • Describe the value or feeling that you intend your students to exprience.

Identify the observable learning outcome. These outcomes must be expressed concretely and observable. You need to be cautious of using words that denote "desirable goals" but which are not possible to adequately measure. For example, we tend to use the phrase" "appreciate American history." While this may be a laudable goal, it is not an objective that can be measured easily in the classroom. Many authors suggest using a list of action verbs, such as identify, differentiate. You may find some additional examples. The following are some examples of observable learning outcomes:

  • The student will recite the Gettysburg address ...
  • The student will subtract a two digit number from a three digit number.
  • The student will measure the length of the classroom ...
  • The student will address an envelope

As you can see from the above examples, we need to also know the criterion levels of success.

Once you have identify the learning outcomes, you need to identify the conditions under which learning will occur. If the conditions are obvious, you do not need to include them in the objective. For example, it is not necessary to write: "Using a pencil and paper, the student will ..." However, it is important to inform students of the conditions under which they will be asked to demonstrate competence. For example, students will study differently if they are asked to list the causes of World War II as opposed to being asked to explain which cause was the most important.

(back to objectives)

Now that you have completed the two steps of specifying the learning outcome and the conditions under which the learning will be demonstrated, you will need to determine what the level of success the student must master to demonstrate competence; this is also known as the level of proficiency. Determining the proficiency level is a matter of making value judgments; however, it is important to understand that these levels can change as circumstances changes. For example, at the start of the school year, you may want your students to write an essay that contains an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. If a student writes an essay containing these three parts, the objectives would have been met. However, as the student's proficiency increases, you will change your proficiency level to include perhaps expressing at least two ideas in the essay or providing appropriate transitions between ideas.

The proficiency level can be based on a number of factors, including:

  • a certain number of correct responses on a test
  • completion of an assignment with a certain minimum number of errors
  • being able to perform something a certain number of times without errors
  • to list the essential features (i.e, the primary and secondary causes of World War II.

An example of an objective containing all of the above elements might be:

Given a list of primary and secondary causes of World War II, the student will be able to label each item with 100% accuracy.

The student will be able to write a behavioral objectives containing the three required elements for the content s/he is teaching.

In summary, an example of instructional objective criteria:

What will the student learn Under what Conditions What degree of mastery Complete objective
The names of the 50 states of the US. by listing all 50 states 80% of the states listed correctly The student will list the 50 states of the US with 80% accuracy.

Note: this only requires the students to know the states - if you want them to spell them correctly, include that in your objective as you will then need to be sure to also teach spelling.  This is a fairly low level objective - you could make it a higher level by asking students to label 80% of the states correctly by labeling them on a map.

OBJECTIVES (back to objectives)

Objectives should demonstrate learning outcomes rather than learning activities. As you look at the following, notice the differences between activities and outcomes.















Notice that each of the Learning outcomes are clearly observable actions. As you look at these words, can you figure out what is missing to allow you to judge whether the student has learned the objective? At this point, return the chart at the top of the page by clicking here.

When you write objectives, AVOID the following verbs: appreciate, familiarize, learn, believe, grasp, like, comprehend, indicate, realize, enjoy, know, understand.

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last updated on 24 April 2011
H. Jurgen Combs