Writing Learning Objectives is as Easy as ABCD

There are many ways professed by many experts on how to write a learning objective. It should be a simple process, but sometimes others make it seem like a formulated conundrum. My youngest is about to start his teaching career, and aside from our conversations around teaching practices and student engagement techniques, he is curious about lesson planning. (He’s entering the field with an alternative license, so he has forgone the formal lessons from Madeline Hunter and Harry Wong.)

So, lesson planning starts with backward planning. What do you want the students to know and to what level of mastery? A good objective comes next. A good learning objective can be as easy as ABCD.

A: Audience – Who is the objective for? Typically, it’s students, but like in show-business, you should always know your audience first. Be mindful of your students’ interests, culture, and background.

B: Behavior – What do you want your students to do exactly? Think taxonomy here. Do you want them to learn (most basic), compare (a little more cognitive demanding), or synthesize (very cognitive demanding)?

C: Condition – Under what circumstance do you want the objective met? By the end of the lesson, the week, or the semester? This helps you decide if your objective is a terminal or short-term objective.

D: Degree – To what level of mastery? Is this an introductory lesson, or a building complexity lesson. Do you need 100% mastery on this lesson for your students to grasp the next level of concepts, or do you need your students to have introductory awareness so that they may develop their mastery at their own style and rate.

An example of a terminal objective: Students will create a short video that summarizes the 10 most pivotal moments of the Civil War, providing descriptions and reasons by the end of the week with no less than 80% mastery (this would allow a student to deviate 2 out of the 10 pivotal moments).

An example of a short term objective: By the end of the lesson, students will correctly add double digit numbers when asked to show and tell with their peers, no less than 2 out of 3 attempts.

Of course, you would share your objectives with your students at the beginning of each lesson and ask that they are mindful of the required results, but encourage them to aspire for 100% degree of mastery. Students typically like to “win big.” So frame it like that. If you find that 50% or more of your students are not meeting the mastery degree you set, it would indicate it’s time for a slowdown and need for a re-teach with another strategy.

This post is dedicated to Bo Perry and all aspiring young teachers.

Published by michelle perry

I was a public school teacher and administrator in the state of New Mexico for 25 years. Currently, I am employed as an administrator in higher education and am enrolled in a PhD program in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on learning technologies.

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