Instructional Objectives
                              Chong Ho Yu, Ph.D.s

Specific Instructional Objectives

Mager (1962): "You cannot concern yourself with the problem of selecting the most efficient route to your destination (of students exhibit knowledge or perform a skill) until you know what your destination is" (p.1)

  • Describe what your learners to be doing.

  • Describe how you will know they are doing it.

  • Identify and name the behavioral act that indicates achievement.

  • State the criterion of acceptable performance.

  • Write a separate objective for each learning performance.

Examples of Specific Objectives

  • Correctly solve at least seven addition problems consisting of 3 two-digit numbers within a period of three minutes.

  • Correctly answer at least four of the five questions on the last page of story booklet 16 in the Reading Comprehension series of booklets.

  • Correctly spell at least 90 percent of the words on the list handed out last week.

General Instructional Objectives

Gronlund (1985):

  • Formulate general objectives of instruction that describe types of behavior students should exhibit in order to demonstrate that they have learned (What you should know).

  • Under each general objective, list up to five specific learning outcomes (what you should be able to perform).

Examples of General Objectives and Specific Outcomes:


By the end of the course, learners should know the basic operations of Mac System 7.5. (and never use an IBM any more)

Specific Outcomes:

Learners should be able to:
  • Install new software.

  • Copy and erase files.

  • Use Chooser to select a file server and a printer.

  • Use Control Panel for setup.

  • Add aliases into Apple menu and Startup folder.

Making beliefs Explicit

Cambourne & Turbill (1994):
  • Desired instructional objectives and outcomes are derived from the teacher's beliefs: his/her value system.

  • A teacher should transform his/her unverbalisable know-how into a set of definitive principles by self-introspection.

  • A teacher should be a co-learner and discuss his/her beliefs with co-workers, parents, and students.

Examples of Making Beliefs Explicit

  • What is literacy?

  • What does it mean to be literate?

  • What is the most appropriate model or theory of learning that will help me produce the kind of literate students I want to produce?

Questions for Discussion

1. Cambourne & Turbill (1994) listed deep engagement with text as a behavioral marker of effective reading behavior. The signs of deep engagement include:

  • facial expression

  • how the eyes move across the page

  • the way the pages are turned

  • being oblivious to extraneous noises or disturbances

  • reluctance to put the book down.

Do you think deep engagement described by Cambourne and Turbill is a valid criterion of assessment?

2. Assume that you will teach an American history class which covers both World war I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War in a high school.

  • Write down what you believe students should learn from history. e.g. Should students learn only the chronological facts or should they involve into the value judgment such as whether it was just to drop atomic bombs in Japan?

  • Based upon your beliefs, write the general objectives of the course.

  • Based upon the general objectives, spell out specific objectives.


Gronlund, N. E. (1985). Stating behavioral objectives for classroom instruction (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Mager, R. F. (1962). Preparing instructional objectives. Palo Alto, CA: Fearon.