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Many different approaches exist for writing outcome-based learning objectives. One method is to list the specific performance indicator you would expect students to demonstrate at the end of a learning unit. For example:
The student will be able to:
This method is useful for teaching simple skills and low levels of knowledge. In this example, teaching strategies and methods should match the performance outcome in a one-to-one fashion. Instruction would focus on students defining vocabulary. It is often desirable; however that instructional strategies and outcomes do not match. A different method, which will be the approach of the examples included in this manual, begins with a general goal followed by a specific objective that offers an example of student performance that would illustrate the studentís mastery of that objective. Consider the following:
The student will be able to:
Goal: Understand the meaning of vocabulary listed at the end of each unit
This method lists the general goal first and then clarifies specific performance outcomes that might characterize achievement of that goal. The general instructional goal is about understanding. Understanding is manifested in a variety of ways including defining terms, differentiating between terms or actually using the terms, as illustrated by the specific instructional objectives. Objectives with different performance indicators might work as well, depending on the given classroom and assessment setting. The vocabulary that guides this method is defined in Table 1:Table 1. Vocabulary Definitions1
If educators approach learning outcomes as representative examples that the student has mastered the overall learning goal, educators can direct instructional design s in creative and productive ways. For example, if an instructor desires that students master an understanding of terms for the anatomy lab, during the instructional process, students m height be asked to read textbook definitions, discuss various terms in class by comparing and contrasting similarities and differences, or use the terms in the anatomy lab during dissection. When these students are tested, they might be asked to define a list of terms in their own words or use the terms in an original paragraph that describes a recent cadaver dissection. This test calls for a type of performance that was not part of the original instruction. This is important if the test is to show understanding rather than just recall of the terms. A higher level of knowledge is being assessed.
Below is an example of a general instructional goal from this site:
Goal: The PA graduate will be able to counsel patients regarding contraception.
There are various ways to teach this information, as well as different methods to evaluate the student’s achievement of this goal. One possible objective that meets this goal is:
This objective would document the studentís ability to meet the goal of being able to counsel a patient regarding contraception. Other measurable assessments could also evaluate this goal, such as successfully completing a multiple-choice examination over this content, or having a preceptor evaluate the studentís appropriate counseling skills in an interaction with a real patient.
Sample Goals and Objectives section of this resource guide provides a wide variety of instructional objectives corresponding to general instructional goals.
1Adapted from Gronlund, NE. (1985) Stating Objectives for Classroom Instruction. Third Edition. MacMillon Publishing Company, New York, NY.