What Makes Up An Effective Lesson Plan: Part 03 Writing Objectives

Course Objectives

Course objectives answers the “why.” It tells us why the students are taking the class; it specified the outcomes the training is supposed to achieve. A good lesson plan will have a general goal, main goal or metagoal. This is the big picture, and then it will break the big goal into smaller parts.

Long Term Goals

Brian Tracy and many other efficiency experts espouse the importance of breaking goals down into long-term and short terms goals. Depending on the type of course you will be  teaching, it could be a one shot class, or a class that happens over a longer period of time. If a course is occurring over a period of time, it is important to break down your course objectives or goals into long-term, medium term (if needed) and short terms.

Stephen Covey stated it best; start with the end in mind. Knowing what the primary objective of the course is, everything else falls into place. By having a clear vision it helps the trainer gather resources. When the trainer knows the long-term objective of the course they can be on the lookout for additional resources to compliment the course. This is more relevant in today’s training, education environment were the availability of resources is not an issue, it is filtering through the abundance of content.

TMI: The uses for objectives according to Piskurich (2006) are 1) Gives the trainees a clear understanding of what they will be covering in the course, as well as what they can expect to know when the course ends, 2) Helps the course designer make sure there are no gaps or duplication of materials, all content is needed in the course, 3) Provides an executive summary of what the course will cover, 4) Helps to organize the course, allows for chunking, 5) Gives the measure for student assessmentsThe ABCD method of writing Objectives

Instructional Designers can spend a good portion of the education learning how to write effective objectives. Here is a quick guide on how to best create the specific objectives of a lesson. It uses something known as the ABCD method.

Audience: This is why it is important to have an idea of the composition of the class. As a trainer you should be able to tailor the objectives to best reflect the audiences’ needs.

Behavior: Objectives must be observable. The trainer must be able to see the student perform an objective.

Which of these two objectives are wrong?

  1. The student will be able to appreciate an example of a post-modernistic painting upon their visit to the National Museum of Art.
  2. The student will list all the states that make up the United States of America.

How do we observe appreciation? Appreciation is a non-observable action. The actions that result from appreciation are observable, so we would need to list those actions. On February 14th it is important to show appreciation for our significant other. We SHOW appreciation by ordering flowers, buying chocolates, taking her/him to dinner, buying them a present.

  • Ordering flowers (observable)
  • Buying chocolates (observable)
  • Taking someone out to eat (observable)
  • Buying a present and ordering flowers (observable)
  • Appreciating someone (implied by these other actions)

Condition: Under what circumstance will the objective be completed? What are the students given, what environment will they find themselves. For example: Given the proper ingredients and a recipe the student will be able to create chocolate chip cookies. It can also state items not provided. For example: Without any references the student will be able to write the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Degree: Something missing so far in all the objectives is the qualifiers for success. In one of the above examples, writing out the preamble, how do we know the student has completed the objective successfully. The degree is how we quantify the success of the learning. It is also how we can develop assessment. With all of this information we can write a complete objective: Student will be able to state from memory all 12 facial bones.

Trainer Tip: There are more and more resources available online for every type of instructor. Some sites to check out are http://www.merlot.org, http://www.youtube.com, http://www.teachertube.com, http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm, and http://www.khanacademy.org just to name a few.

The Learning Pyramid:

The Learning Pyramid is the idea that lessons should be designed with objectives that are in three categories: all students will learn, most students will learn, and some students will learn (Lynch & Warner, 2008). The “all students” objectives are the minimum required for passing the training, the most is the middle ground. This is where most of your students will fall. The some categories are helpful when learners are present who either have advanced skill in the topic or have a knack for it.

Items for the lesson plan:

  • The metaobjective
  • Individual lesson objectivesThe Learning Pyramid


Other Resources:


About ScottFord

Scott Ford, M.Ed. is an award-winning senior instructional designer. Scott has had the honor of developing courses for the DEA, FBI, CIA, and Chevron just to name a few. While working with the FBI, one of his courses was sent to a Congressional Committee. While with the CIA, Scott developed a computer-based training that set new standards for computer-based training and was the recipient of several awards within the US Intelligence Community. Scott received his M.Ed. from Texas A&M with honors. He has been a regular guest lecturer for their instructional design program. Scott was also an adjunct faculty member at Lone Star College, North Virginia Community College (NOVA) and a featured speaker for the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA), MERLOT, Online Learning Consortium (OLC), and Network Texas.
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