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Vol. 2, No. 13      July 25, 2006    

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Contact DSA
Darryl L. Sink & Associates, Inc.
One Cielo Vista Place
Monterey, CA 93940
Phone: 831.649.8384

Voicemail: 800.650.SINK (7465)
Fax: 831.649.3914
Workshops: Jane Sink, Vice President of Marketing

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Today's Tip
When Do Objectives Help The Most?

When do objectives help learners the most?

What kind of objectives? You know — the ones with the three parts:

  1. Action verb
  2. Condition statement
  3. Standard of performance

Many years ago, yours truly did an extensive review of one hundred studies on providing objectives to students prior to instruction. An interesting phenomenon appeared and certainly got my attention: approximately 50% of the studies showed increases on post-test scores when providing objectives to the learners prior to instruction. The other 50% found no significant differences in post-test scores. These results are not exactly what one would expect since it should turn out to be about 95% one-way or the other. So, I compared the studies on every variable I could think of, including:

  • Age of students
  • Levels of learning via Bloom’s Taxonomy
  • Type of content such as conceptual /factual /principal /procedural learning
  • Delivery system and media types
  • How structured the instruction was

The only variable that showed up as affecting significant increases in post-test scores when providing learning objectives prior to instruction was the structure of the instruction itself.

When the learning materials were highly structured, as in computer based instruction with branching programming or programmed instruction booklets (i.e. the kind where you proceed by answering questions every half page or so), no significant differences on post-test scores occurred. However, when the instruction was loosely structured, as in reading prose passages in a text book or attending college lectures, the students that had the objectives prior to the instruction did get significantly better scores on post-test than students without objectives.

Here is another interesting finding from the literature review:

In cases where incidental learning (nice-to-knows etc.) was also tested, students with objectives did just as well as those not receiving the objectives prior to instruction. Therefore, we can conclude that focusing the learner on the learning objectives does not take away from learning the incidental non-objective based content.

So, go ahead and provide the learning objectives to your students prior to instruction. Providing the objectives ahead of the instruction does not hurt anything and definitely helps the learner with unstructured instructional materials and presentations.

Until next time,

Darryl

Article © 2006 Darryl Sink & Associates, Inc


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Copyright, Darryl L. Sink & Associates, Inc.
Monterey, California

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