Getting Started in the Right Direction: The Case for Behavioral Objectives

If you are going to assume the role of a teacher, whether you are trained as one or not, there are some conditions that you must be able to fulfill if you are to be successful. To ensure that the learning is passed from you to the student, there are several critical components that you need, each of which I will describe in detail. Let’s begin at the beginning.

Have a Plan

First and foremost, you should have a plan for what you are going to teach and a way to implement that plan so that the student is guaranteed to learn. In short, you need a road map to take the student from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. Such roadmaps are often considered to be a scope and sequence chart with list of learning outcomes as waypoints. The plan shows the scope of the material to be taught and the sequence in which the skills will be learned. Each learning outcome adds another skill.

Set Clear Behavioral Objectives

Some curricula include learning outcomes that are to be met during the course. In a beginning reading class, one outcome statement could say “The student can match sounds and symbols used in reading”. Many curricula do not provide learning outcomes and leave the decision up  to the teacher. Even when learning outcomes are provided, they are often little more than descriptive statements. They are much too vague and generally cannot be directly measured to see whether or not the teacher and student mastered the material.

This presents the need for a more accountable set of outcomes, usually known as behavioral objectives.

These have the benefit of being directly measurable by the teacher, parent, or anyone who needs the information. For example, a behavioral objective for teaching students sounds and sound combinations says:

“The student can see and say 50 – 60 sounds and/or sound combinations in one minute without making more than 2 errors.”

This statement is easily understood, easily measured and delivers numerical scores which are easily compared to previous scores to determine progress. Both teacher and student know the goal of the objective, both in terms of the necessary rate and the required accuracy. It is not sufficient to simply be able to blurt out sounds quickly; they must also have high quality of correctness.

Use Clear Behavioral Objectives to Measure Progress

Behavioral objectives using frequency and accuracy measures allow the teacher to determine exactly where the student is on the road to success. It provides information when problems occur. Either the score fails to increase, or the errors increase confirming that the student is no longer making progress. Watching the errors helps the teacher determine what parts need correction. Watching the sounds at which the student hesitates depicts those which need more practice.

Olympic coaches and health professionals commonly employ frequency measures as their guide. With the exception of keyboarding courses, education never uses them. As behavioral educators, a group known as Precision Teachers, have collected data on literally millions of students in their learning of basic and advanced academic skills over the past 50 years. There is general agreement as to what constitutes fluent performance on a large number of academic skills.

In my next blog I will provide a list of the top 30 behavioral objectives that we used by The Maloney Method.


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