Instructional and Learning Objectives

Learning objectives for instruction can help design lessons that will be easier for the student to comprehend and the teacher to evaluate. These include instructional and performance objectives. Objectives for learning are specific to the learning outcome of the learners.

A learning objective is a statement that establishes measurable behavioral outcome. It is used to indicate how a learner’s acquisition of skills and knowledge is being measured. A performance objective is an operational objective that defines what a learner student is capable of doing after the inherent conditions of a desired behavior and the success criteria. A learning goal combines the content, and learning objectives or standards with a description of what learners should be able to accomplish with the content that is presented. Performance objectives and learning objectives for education and training are foundational, and no instruction should begin without them.

An instructional objective is an explanation of what the learner should be able to do at the end of instruction.

A performance objective is a statement which identifies specific knowledge, skill, or attitude that the learner should gain and display as a result of the training or instructional activity.

The objective is the description of what you want the learner to be able to do after the instruction is completed. The learning objective includes the kind of performance, the conditions where or how it will be performed, and the criterion. Objectives can be:

  1. Overt: The kind of performance that can be observed directly, or
  2. Covert: Performance that is invisible, cognitive, or internal.

Reasons for writing objectives are:

  1. They provide a sound basis for selection of learning materials, content, and methods
  2. They provide a way to measure whether the learning has been attained
  3. They give the student an opportunity to organize their efforts and activities before and as the instruction occurs.

To prepare an objective consider the ABCD:

  1. Audience: plan for who your learners are.
  2. Behavior: describe what they will be able to do
  3. Conditions and Degree: how will the learner’s performance be measured, in what conditions and to what degree.


Given the criteria to evaluate a web site, the student will use the Internet and a search engine to locate and select, within 20 minutes, three good web sites on a specified topic.

Learning Objectives and How to Develop Them

As you develop objectives, think of the following questions: What is the general/main objective for your course? Is it a statement describing the instructional goal? Is it a statement describing the entry behaviors? Is it a statement describing specific behaviors, skills, or tasks? Is it a statement of what the learner will be able to do after completion of the instruction?

Why is Objective Setting Important?

  1. Objectives provide a plan for what you need to teach
  2. Objectives provide a focus for developing the best instructional strategy/model
  3. Objectives help direct the learner’s attention to what will be expected of him/her
  4. Objectives provide the foundation for assessing the learner’s knowledge, skills, or performance
  5. Objectives provide criteria for measuring the effectiveness of the entire instructional application

Five Components of Performance Objectives

  1. Situation/Performance Condition: Anticipation of the situation in which the learner will perform
  2. Learned Capability Verb: Type of learning outcome represented by the demonstrated behavior (See learned capability verbs)
  3. Object: Indicates the content of the learner’s performance
  4. Action Verb: Describes how the performance is to be completed (describes the action one would observe). Note: Learned capability verbs should not be used as action verbs.
  5. Tools, Constraints, or Special Conditions (Criteria): A specific tool (typewriter, manipulative, etc.) time limit or arrangement may be required. Note: Inclusion of the fifth component (tools, constraints, special condition/a criterion) is optional.

Learning objectives are the foundation of good instruction. They set the stage for writing good assessment and evaluation items, regardless of the subject or discipline. Assessments, performance objectives, and learning activities must be clearly aligned in order to enhance the learning outcomes.