Instructional Objectives


Before a training is designed, instructional designers first identify the instructional objectives of the course. Instructional objectives are measureable terms that describe what learners will be able to do after the instruction. It is important to have clearly outline instructional objectives to make sure that what is taught in the courses matches the intended outcome. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. is used to remember the guideline for writing clear objectives.

Writing S.M.A.R.T. Objectives

To be effective, instructional objectives should be:

  1. Specific. Instructional objectives should precisely describe what is expected of a learner. For example, the learner will be able to deal with irritable customers, is not a specific objective. This could be made better by stating how the learner will deal with the irritable customer.
  2. Measurable. A measureable instructional objective is one that can be observed or one that generates data points. For example, the learner will apply compassion skills to handle irritable customers and log and report the outcome of each call by the end of the month. The learner’s log offers data about how the customers reacted to the technique.
  3.  Attainable. Learners cannot feel defeated by the intended outcomes of the learning objectives. Instructional objectives should not ask learners to prove themselves under unfeasible circumstances. Give learners ample time to prove their new skills. For example, in the objective above, the learner has one month to prove he or she is effectively exercising the new skills. This is ample time for the learner to do so.
  4. Relevant. Most learners do not care about learning things that they cannot use right away. The information presented in the course and the outcomes should be relevant to their personal lives or day to day work.
  5. Time-framed. Learners need a deadline for when they should achieve and demonstrate use of the skillset. One month is the time-frame for the above-mentioned objective. A learning objective that is not time-framed gives learners the false impression that they have an indefinite amount time to learn the skill and apply it.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Action Verbs

Bloom’s taxonomy is a hierarchical model of cognitive processes that boost learning outcomes. They are:

  1. Remembering
  2. Understanding
  3. Applying
  4. Analyzing
  5. Synthesizing
  6. Evaluating

A newer version of Bloom’s taxonomy developed for 21st century learners has swapped synthesizing for evaluating and replaced evaluating with creating. Both are used by instructional designers to structure curriculum instructional objectives.

Bloom’s taxonomy action verb lists are also helpful when writing instructional objectives. For example, one list uses the verb “summarize” to describe an activity that reinforces comprehension. A verb that describes an evaluation activity is “critique”. Using these verb lists helps instructional designers generate measurable learning objectives easily, while adhering to the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines.

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