How to Develop Objectives and Goals
Determining and developing instructional goals and objectives are a critical part of the instructional design process.
Difference between Goals and Objectives
Instructional goals differ from objectives:
- Goal: A general statement regarding the intention of the instruction.
- Objective: Usually more detailed and specific than a goal; objectives describe how the learning will affect the learners. Objectives should be measurable.
For example, in our hypothetical business writing course, imagine we are working on the objectives for the lesson on proper e-mail etiquette. The objectives for the course could include:
- When writing a business e-mail, students will be able to construct a subject line that appropriately summarizes the topic of the e-mail in less than five words.
- When writing a business e-mail, students will use an appropriate salutation for the specific audience when beginning the e-mail.
- When writing a business e-mail, students will keep the email to an appropriate length of no more than three paragraphs, if possible.
- When writing a business e-mail, students will use an appropriate closing, with a signature line that conveys their contact information.
One of the most popular approaches in the world of instructional design to setting goals is Robert Mager's approach. Mager identifies three components that IDs need to consider when generating performance objectives:
- Performance: What is the learner expected to be able to do when finished with the instruction?
- Condition: What condition or conditions will be present?
- Criterion: How will the learner perform the action?
In our example of creating a business writing course, these three might look like the following:
When writing a business email (condition), the learner will create a message (performance) that is concise and appropriate (criterion).
Translating Goals to Objectives
Clear instructional objectives, the intended outcome of the learning, are important from both the learner's perspective, as well as the ID's perspective. Clear objectives can make designing the content an easier job for the instructional designer.
An objective should describe what the learner will be able to do after completing the instruction, in a way that is either measurable or observable. Most instructional designers reference Bloom's taxonomy when writing instructional goals.
As you may recall from the previous lesson, Bloom's taxonomy is divided into three domains:
- Cognitive: Dealing in knowledge and understanding.
- Affective: Dealing in the emotional realm.
- Psychomotor: Dealing in physical skills.
Most of the time, instruction is focused on cognition, and so the cognitive domain is used most frequently.
The following table shows the six levels of the cognitive domain, starting from most basic and moving to most skilled, along with common verbs used to describe the intended outcome of instruction.
||Identify, describe, define, list, recall, recognize
||Comprehend, discuss, distinguish, locate, interpret
||Apply, construct, demonstrate, carry out, use
||Analyze, contrast, differentiate, compare
||Create, develop, compile, propose, integrate
||Evaluate, assess, criticize, support, defend
So in our example of creating a lesson on proper business e-mail etiquette, our objective would likely be in the Application level, since the student is applying learning by actually writing an e-mail. Some of the objectives might be, then, using Application-level verbs:
- Students will demonstrate their knowledge of e-mail salutations by writing the salutation line of a business e-mail to a client.
- Students will use what they have learned about proper e-mail length to write the body of the e-mail message.