Theory Basis: Instructional Theory
For the instructional designer, an objective should be a meticulously developed statement based on a task selected for training from an analysis that describes the desired behavior (action verb), conditions, and achievement criteria of a desired student performance (mastery).
The three parts of an objective used by a designer helps to guide the plethora of decisions involved in designing training. See the chart below:
For the Learner
In addition, objectives allow the learner to make a judgment regarding the value of the session; influencing the level of motivation to apply.
Use and Abuse
The general principle of sharing the learning objectives with the learner is a sound one. Unfortunately, some historical events have yielded a poor practice; sharing a list of objectives written for the instructional designer at the beginning of a course. Let’s face it there is nothing motivating about reading or listening to someone read off a litany of objectives that can’t be understood. This method may actually interfere with learning.
There are multiple sources that will bear out the following; although I think Smith & Ragan (1) say it best, “Only rarely will designers express the objective to the learners in the same forms that were used when designing instruction”.
Objectives shared with the learner should be understandable by the uninitiated, shared prior to the related content, and describe how success will be achieved.
Quick Quality Check: Ensure terms that have not been learned yet are excluded from the objective shared with students. Ask an inexperienced person to explain what will be learned and a description of how they would go about achieving success.
Challenge: Choose a lesson and delete the list of learning objectives at the beginning of a learning session. If not already existing, replace it with a goal statement describing how the content will be applied.
Review the objectives for one of your learning sessions, select the objectives using the action verb “identify” and do the following reality check. Ask yourself, if this really the action you anticipate the learner to do in the work place. Follow this up with a review of the evaluation; is the verb in the evaluation congruent with the verb in the objective and task?
The Missing Link:
The key to a valid evaluation is the action verb in the objectives; it should be the same ones used in the evaluation. For an individual test item (item analysis) the link is called “Item-Objective Congruence. Ronald .A. Berk (3) describes the relationship as “The most important (test) item characteristic.”
The quality of your evaluation instrument is directly dependent on the degree of agreement between the action verbs in your objectives and the actions in the evaluation used to measure the mastery of the objective.
The verb in the task statement and the verb in the objective should be the consistent. The verb in the objective and the verb in the evaluation instrument (read test question) should be congruent.
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