Instructional Goals and Objectives

Crafting Instructional Objectives

Instructional objectives should specify four main things:

This is often called the ABCD's of objectives, a nice mnemonic aid!

Tip: Never use the word understand in an objective. It is too vague, and does not specify a measurable behavior.


Instructional objectives should be SMART:

Specific - Use the ABCDs to create a clear and concise objective.

Measurable - Write the objective so that anyone can observe the learner perform desired action and objectively assess the performance.

Achievable - Make sure the learner can do what is required. Don't, for example, ask the learner to perform complex actions if they are a beginner in an area.

Relevant - Demonstrate value to the learner. Don't teach material that won't be used or on which you will not assess.

Timely and Time Bound - Ensure the performance will be used soon, not a year from now. Also, include any necessary time constraints, such as completing a task in "10 minutes or less."

Examples of Well-written Objectives

Below are some example objectives which include Audience (A), Behavior (B), Condition (C), and Degree of Mastery (D). Note that many objectives actually put the condition first.

Psychomotor - "Given a standard balance beam raised to a standard height, the student (attired in standard balance beam usage attire) will be able to walk the entire length of the balance beam (from one end to the other) steadily, without falling off, and within a six second time span."

Cognitive (comprehension level) - "Given examples and non-examples of constructivist activities in a college classroom, the student will be able to accurately identify the constructivist examples and explain why each example is or isn't a constructivist activity in 20 words or less."

Cognitive (application level) - "Given a sentence written in the past or present tense, the student will be able to re-write the sentence in future tense with no errors in tense or tense contradiction (i.e., I will see her yesterday.)."

Cognitive (creation/synthesis level) - "Given two cartoon characters of the student's choice, the student will be able to list five major personality traits of each of the two characters, combine these traits (either by melding traits together, multiplying together complimentary traits, or negating opposing traits) into a composite character, and develop a short (no more than 20 frames) storyboard for a cartoon that illustrates three to five of the major personality traits of the composite character."

Affective - "Given the opportunity to work in a team with several people of different races, the student will demonstrate a positive increase in attitude towards non-discrimination of race, as measured by a checklist utilized/completed by non-team members."

When reviewing example objectives above, you may notice a few things.

Typical Problems Encountered When Writing Objectives

Problems in Writing Objectives
Problem Error Type Solution
Too vast/complex The objective is too broad in scope or is actually more than one objective. Simplify/break apart.
False/missing behavior, condition, or degree The objective does not list the correct behavior, condition, and/or degree, or they are missing. Be more specific, make sure the behavior, condition, and degree is included.
Only topics listed Describes instruction, not conditions. That is, the instructor may list the topic but not how he or she expects the students to use the information Simplify, include ONLY ABCDs.
False performance No true overt, observable performance listed. Describe what behavior you must observe.

Self Check

How well do you understand the basics of writing good instructional objectives? Try this self test and you'll find out!

Additional Links

A Quick Guide to Writing Learning Objectives