How to Write an Instructional Objective

How to Write an Instructional Objective

Domains of Learning | Bloom's Taxonomy | How to Write Objectives | References

What is an instructional objective? Mager (1997) state that an instructional objective is "a collection of words and/or pictures and diagrams intended to let others know what you intend for your students to achieve" (p. 3). In order to have a better understanding of how to write an instruction objective, The following areas all need to be studied: Domains of learning, Bloom's of taxonomy, and four fundamentals of how to write an objective.

Domains of Learning

When writing instructional objectives, there are certain things you must know about your instructional goal. One is what type of learning the student will be engaged in while working towards the goal.

The domains of learning are a guide that will help you identify the type of learning a certain goal requires and how to write objectives to go with it. By understanding what type of learning needs to take place, you can write objectives that will clearly outline what steps your learner will need to follow to reach the instructional goal. There are three different categories of the domains of learning.

Cognitive Learning Domain: emphasizes the remembering and or reproducing of something that has presumably been learned. It also involves solving some intellectual task for which the individual has to determine the essential problem and then reorder given material or combine it with ideas, methods, or procedures previously learned. Cognitive objectives vary from simple recall of material learned to highly original and creative ways of combining and synthesizing new ideas and materials. In short, cognitive objectives deal with what a student should know, understand, or comprehend.

Affective Learning Domain: emphasize a feeling, emotion, or a degree of acceptance or rejection. Affective objectives vary from simple attention to a selected phenomenon, to complex but internally consistent qualities of character and conscience. In other words, affective objectives deal with how a student should feel about something.

Psychomotor Learning Domain: emphasizes motor skills, or manipulation of materials and objects, or action, which requires neuromuscular coordination. Stated in another way, psychomotor objectives are concerned with how a student controls or moves his body.

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Bloom's Taxonomy

Bloom's Taxonomy is a way to organize objectives or ideas according to their natural relationships to one another. B.S. Bloom developed a taxonomy for intellectual behavior dividing it into six stages. Each level involves progressively more complex cognitive functioning from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order, which is classified as evaluation.

The staircase model illustrates the six stages of Bloom's Taxonomy (Bloom, et al., 1956)







Knowledge: To memorize information

The most significant thing about the first step in Bloomís taxonomy is that no real understanding needs to take place. The learner simply memorizes and recalls information. In a test situation it is sometimes necessary to reorganize the problem to produce the clues that will bring out the appropriate information from the learner.

An example of Knowledge: A student will stand and recite the Gettysburg Address.

Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on Knowledge: arrange, define, duplicate, label, list, memorize, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, and state.

Comprehension: To draw conclusions based on information

When we comprehend a message or idea, we come to understand it in terms of what we already know. We receive clues, then change the information so it means something to us. More than memorization occurs. Conclusions about the information are drawn. The process is still, however, very simple.

An example of Comprehension: A student will translate three sentences from English to German.

Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on Comprehension: classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, identify, indicate, locate, recognize, report, restate, review, select, translate.

Application - to choose proper information that is provided to solve a problem.

The main difference between Comprehension and Application is the lack of informational clues at the Application level. The key element is choice. The learner must choose from among a number of possible ideas, methods, or procedures in an attempt to solve a problem. Students ìapplyî the information they have already learned to solve a new problem without any additional informational clues

An example of Application: After looking at a road map of Iowa, the student will choose the best possible route from Sioux City to Keokuk.

Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on Application: apply, choose, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, operate, practice, schedule, sketch, solve, use, and write.

Analysis - to explain relationships and break down complex ideas.

The key concept in the Analysis stage is awareness. The learner becomes aware of the relationship between facts, ideas, and solutions, whereas at the Comprehension and Application stages, the relationship is already spelled out for the student. The learner must explain the relationship, and distinguish between relevant and irrelevant material, or which information may have more impact on a projected outcome.

An example of Analysis: After studying three hypotheses, the student will list the commonalties and differences of each hypothesis.

Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on Analysis: analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, and test.

Synthesis - to combine things to make something new

Original thinking is required at the Synthesis level. The learner must operate like a master chef and create a new recipe. Different elements are combined in unique ways to establish a concept, plan, communication, or structure that was not there before.

An example of Synthesis: Using five different references, a student will write a research paper on a specific topic.

Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on Synthesis: arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, develop, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, set up, write.

Evaluation - to develop a value system based upon analysis of information

At the Evaluation level information is gathered from ideas, theories, facts, and solutions, and then sorted out and put to use according to the value it has to the individual. Intellectual functioning at this level is meant to expand the base upon which people make judgments by developing criteria, and establishing and maintaining a system of values.

An example of Evaluation: The student will develop a set of criteria, and review and evaluate the written materials based on these standards.

Verb examples that represent intellectual activity on Evaluation: appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose compare, defend estimate, judge, predict, rate, core, select, support, value, evaluate.

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How to Write an Instructional Objectives

The first question we might ask ourselves is "What is an objective?" An objective is a description of what the learner will be able to do after successfully completing the learning experience. When we write objectives, we must ask ourselves what we want the learner to be able to accomplish after we put them through a lesson or training component.

Instructional objectives are important because without them it is impossible to effectively evaluate learning. It is also difficult to select content, appropriate course materials, or specific teaching strategies.

Tests can lose their relevancy or fairness unless specific objectives are clear to both the student and the teacher. If teachers do not have a clear idea of the intent of the lesson, they will not be able to select test items that clearly reflect the students ability to perform the intended skills. Also, if students are aware of a clearly defined objective, they have the tools with which to evaluate their own progress. This way learners can tell if they are on target.

Four Fundamentals of Good Objectives

When trying to write good objectives, just ask yourself the following:


Does the statement clearly define who the learner is? Since the purpose of an objective is to define the outcome of a learning experience, it is important to specifically define who the learner is.

For example: After completing this tutorial ITMA students will be able to list the three domains of learning.


Does the statement clearly define what the learner will be doing after completing the learning sequence? The behavior component of the objective emphasizes the observable behavior that will occur after the learner completes the instruction. This will identify the type of performance that will be used as evidence to show that the learner has reached the objective. While writing this component it is important that to clearly and specifically state what it is you want the learner to be able to demonstrate at the completion point.

For Example: Given a map of United States, students will label the state capitals with 100% accuracy.


Does the statement clearly describe the condition under which the learner is expected to perform? When stating objectives it is important that you include the condition in which performance is to be observed. Condition is the setting or circumstance the learner will be in at the time of assessment.

For Example: Given speed and distance, the student will calculate the time needed to reach Boston correctly.


Does the statement set the degree or standard of acceptable performance? The final criterion of a well stated objective is the standard by which acceptable performance is measured. The clarity and communication of the objective is enhanced greatly by specifying how well (to what degree) the learner will be able to perform. By specifying at least the minimum acceptable performance, a standard will be developed by which to judge the instructional program.

For example: The students will solve 10 algebraic equations in 10 minutes without a calculator.

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Bloom, B. S. (1984) Taxonomy of educational objectives. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

Bloom, B. S. , et al (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals. A committee of college and university examiners. New York : McKay.

Heinich, R., Molenda, M., Russell, J., Smaldino, S. (2001). Instructional Media and Technologies for Learning, 7th Edition. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Mager, R. F. (1997). Preparing instructional objectives: A critical tool in the development of effective instruction (3 ed.). Atlanta, GA: The Center for Effective Performance.

Shambaugh, N., & Magliaro, S. G. (2006). Instructional design: A systematic approach for reflective practice. In. Boston: Pearson Education.

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