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Designing Your Objectives – Part Two

In part one of this two-part post I introduced a method used by instructional designers to develop objectives. Sound objectives are in integral part of assessment, for without well-designed objectives we have no clear sense of what the outcome is and how we can measure whether or not the appropriate outcome was achieved. So let’s go back to our objective and apply the A-B-C-D method to it.

The students will complete an exercise in which they translate research topics into research questions. This will be completed as an assignment for review in class. Students should successfully convert 8 of 10 topic statements into acceptable research questions.

In this example the “A” (audience) part of the objective is the students. The audience is the individual(s) who will participate in the objective. The “B” (behavior) part of the objective is complete an exercise in which they translate research topics into research questions. The behavior is what we want or expect the audience to accomplish. The “C” (condition) part of the objective is review in class. The objective should describe where or under what conditions the learning needs to take place. Finally the “D” (degree) part of the objective is sucessfully convert 8 of 10 topic statements. It identifies just exactly what the learner must do to achieve competency, and helps to measure if the objective has been accomplished.

So if we were to conduct an exercise in an instruction session to test student ability to translate topics into research questions, it would be up to the instructor to devise an instruction method and choose an instruction medium, but the actual assessment of learning would be no different whatever methods were used. If the students are able to demonstrate they can successfully convert 8 of 10 topic statements, then the outcome was achieved.

I hope this example helps to illustrate how the A-B-C-D method can be used to write objectives. The difficulty in writing clear objectives is a frequent barrier in designing learning outcomes. If this method doesn’t work for you, an option may be the Web-Based Objectives Builder Tool. I have experimented with it a bit, and if you take the time to work through it can help to write or think through objectives. It can even help with working through the A-B-C-D method as it can recommend appropriate verbs for contructing objectives. It takes some practice, but some may find the Builder Tool works better. Those who need help developing and writing objectives can find more information in many instructional design texts. I recently found this article to be of some help.

So the next time you need to design an instruction session or instructional product for your user community consider starting with a set of objectives. It may save a good deal of time when conducting the assessment of the service or product.

Comments

Comment from jill
Posted: April 16, 2007 at 4:06 pm

This is very timely, Steven! I’m developing a plagiarism prevention workshop as we speak and my first task is to develop objectives. I’ll definitely be using this method – thank you!

Comment from Steve Ehrmann
Posted: May 14, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Good stuff! But it’s important to realize that goals represent a uniform impact view of a learning experience, an assumption that everyone involved is supposed to be learning the same thing. The complementary perspective on the same learning opportunity is “unique uses,” the assumption that each participant may well be learning or benefiting in a way that is qualitatively different from other participants. Any educational program or opportunity can be viewed from both of these perspectives. And two perspectives have contrasting implications for development of resources, assessment of learning, and program evaluation. For more on this topic, see: http://www.tltgroup.org/Flashlight/Handbook/UI-UU.htm

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