When Do Objectives Help The Most?
do objectives help learners the most?
What kind of objectives?
You know — the ones with the three parts:
- Action verb
- Condition statement
- Standard of
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.
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,
Article © 2006
Darryl Sink & Associates, Inc