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Instructional objectives, also called learning objectives or behavioral objectives,

are of the utmost importance.

Objectives can be helpful in instructional planning, during the teaching/learning


process, and when assessing student progress. Instructional objectives should guide
the teaching and learning process from beginning to end.

Instructional objectives, which must always be measurable and observable, serve


several functions. First, they improve communication between:

Our students and us


The students' parents and us
The school administration and us

This is because they state, categorically, what a student will be able to do at the
end of a particular lesson or unit. Second, they help us to choose appropriate
learning activities and teaching materials. We would be hard-pressed to know
which types of resources to use if we didn't have some idea of what our students
should be expected to do at the end. Finally, they drive the assessment process.
Yes, you read that correctly. They literally drive the entire assessment process.
Without objectives, we would have absolutely no idea what to test our students on,
much less what should be asked on the test.

Most lesson plan forms include a place for the objectives of the lesson to be
recorded. However, to write an objective down and then to plan the lesson around
the topic of the lesson rather than around the learning outcomes to be reached is
missing the point. There is good evidence in the human learning literature that
different kinds of outcomes are learned differently. Robert Gagn was one of the
first researchers to articulate this; it follows from his research that instructional
planning must take into account the kind of learning the students will be engaged
in as they seek to reach an objective. Effective teachers learn to categorize their
instructional objectives and then develop the teaching and learning activities that
will help students do the kind of thinking required for that kind of learning.

Objectives and Assessment


An assessment is some type of activity where a student demonstrates what he or
she has learned in a lesson or unit. This assessment doesn't necessarily have to be a
written test. If you were teaching physical education students to serve a tennis ball,
you probably wouldn't want to give them a written test on the process. Instead, you
would have them demonstrate the serving process.
Now, getting back to the earlier statement that objectives drive the assessment,
think about this in two ways. First, a student should never be assessed on
something that is not made explicit in the instructional objectives at the beginning
of a unit. Second, assessments should be formulated immediately after the
instructional objectives have been written. Too often, teachers write their
objectives, teach the material, and then develop the assessment. While that seems
perfectly logical, it is actually backwards.
Remember, the objectives drive the assessment - so, doesn't it make more sense to
formulate them together and then go back and choose your learning activities and
teaching materials? If you do it this way, you will never have to worry about
whether or not you are testing students on miscellaneous or extraneous items,
rather than on stated objectives!
How does an educator know what to measure? Look at the objectives. How
does a teacher know what kind of information gathering tools to use (test,
rubric, portfolio)? Study the objectives. Any test item, any rating scale or
checklist, any technique devised to collect information about student progress must
seek to measure the instructional objectives as directly and as simply as possible.
Instructional objectives are an extremely valuable teaching tool that guide both
teachers and students through the teaching and learning process.