What Are Behavioral Objectives? Part 1 of 5: An Overview

This is the first article in a five-part series about Behavioral Objectives. The articles in order of publication are:

  1. Behavioral Objectives; An Overview
  2. The Scope and Sequence Chart
  3. Gantt Charts for Progress Planning
  4. Setting Standards of Achievement or Fluency
  5. Why This Component Works

If you don’t know where you are going, you are much less likely to get there. That is equally true for a hike through the woods as it is for taking a course to learn a new skill. If you don’t know the makeup of the course and what is coming next, it makes completing both a hike and an academic pursuit much harder.

Why Behavioral Objectives?

Any undertaking needs a set of objectives. The objectives define the goal(s) of the undertaking. The need for objectives is as great for education as for any other discipline. However, in too many cases, the objectives are obvious to the teacher, but not to the student. The objectives are not clearly stated or even stated at all. The closest approximation to a behavioural objective may be the table of contents laying out chapters and exercises as part of the preface of a textbook. If you do not understand the terms, meanings or application of the headings, it is not all that helpful to the unschooled student. For both the teacher and the student, carefully set out behavioural objectives are a great help in providing an overview of what is to be taught and learned.

Measurement is Critical, Keep it Simple

Behavioral objectives by definition have a measurement component. The outcomes are specified by the quantity and quality of learning that can be observed and repeated. Most course objectives fall well short of this requirement. For example a reading objective might note that “the student is aware of the concept and use of phonics.” That statement fails to quantify the learning in any way. A behavioural objective that states that “the student can see and say 50-60 sounds and sound combinations in one minute without making more than 2 errors” provides an objective that is observable, repeatable and measurable.

  • Anyone could provide the student with an array of sounds and sound combinations.
  • Anyone could listen to the student say the sounds and could count the errors and the number sounded correctly.
  • Anyone could record the scores each day to see what improvement the student is making as a result of our instruction and practice.
  • Anyone could compare the student’s latest score to the standard set out in the behavioural objective to determine if that objective had been met or not.
  • Anyone could compare this student’s scores to those of similar aged or grade students to see how this child is doing vis-a-vis his or her peers.
  • Anyone could make a decision about what to do next to increase the corrects, or decrease the errors to help the student reach the objective.

The Maloney Method outlines behavioural objectives for all of the tasks in its literacy curricula so that anyone can determine whether or not their teaching is working and their students are learning.

There is detailed information about our reading objectives in the free training provided on our website. Try the Free reading test. Give the test to your student or do it yourself in order to reach the free training and 10 free lessons.