Objectives are an invaluable resource for achieving learning outcomes. A well-written objective includes information that will help guide both teachers and students. Teachers need objectives to help plan a lesson, the activities, and the evaluation of the lesson content. While students need objectives to determine what they are learning and how they will be assessed or evaluated on the lesson content. In this article, explore how the four elements of an objective can help you better communicate instructional goals with your students.
The Four Elements of an Objective
Use the A-B-C-D method of writing objectives to help you clearly communicate what a student is expected to know and how you will test the student. The four elements of an objective are Audience, Behavior, Condition, and Degree.
Objectives are more often written in the following format: condition, audience, behavior, and degree. For example:
Given various reading statements, the 4th grade student should be able to identify fiction and nonfiction statements, with 80% accuracy.
So which element is which in the example?
An essential part of planning instruction and writing objectives is determining the complexity of thought, or rigor, and the sustained mental effort required, or cognitive demand, for students to complete a task. Use a learning taxonomy such as Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised to help you find measurable, actionable verbs appropriate for the level of cognitive difficulty required.
Below are some example verbs for each level, but a quick online search will yield a wealth of Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised graphic charts, complete with verbs for each level.
The six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy Revised (from simpler to more complex) include:
Comparing Your Objective and Evaluation Task
Once you have a well-defined objective, compare your objective and the evaluation task for alignment. Every objective should have an evaluation task, and every evaluation task should have an objective. Additionally, the behavior, condition, and degree should match between an objective and the evaluation task. This alignment is referred to as Performance Agreement. Consider the following example:
Given a realistic role-play situation, the Communications 110 student will play the part of the salesperson and should be able to present three reasons why the client should purchase a specific product.
With the objective above, a sample evaluation task would be:
You are meeting with a major client. You have to make a case for buying your company’s product. It is important that you present at least three reasons why the client should purchase your product.
During instructional planning, if the evaluation task and objective do not match, consider changing the objective or the evaluation task to ensure that the behavior, condition, and degree are in agreement between the two.
In conclusion, use the four elements of the A-B-C-D Method (Audience, Behavior, Condition, and Degree) to help you write clear classroom objectives. The audience element defines who will achieve the objective. The behavior element uses an action verb to define the expected measurable and observable behavior. The condition element states the condition under which the behavior will be performed. Lastly, the degree element states the criterion for acceptable performance. Including these four elements in your objectives will help you clearly communicate your learning expectations with students, guide your instruction, and help you align your objectives and evaluation tasks.
About the author: Emanuel Arnold is an instructional designer for PowerSchool’s Customer Education Department.