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At the end of the article are guiding questions for the educator.
Objectives are essential in the process of lesson planning. They give the lesson plan guidance and become markers for the educator throughout the process. When threading a lesson plan, the objectives of the lesson should be the guiding force like a needle is for yarn.
There will be two types of objectives that will concern the educator- lesson objectives and course objective. Lesson objectives are the ones the educator creates for each class. Meanwhile, course objectives are normally set by school administration, but in some instances, educators are free to assign their own objectives. Regardless, objectives are designed to guide educators along a path to increase student learning. Objectives will be discussed in regards to lesson planning for this article as it is the most pertinent to educators. Although, course objectives can be said to follow the same course, except on a larger scale.
Psychology of Objectives
Educators, regardless of experience, normally view writing lesson objectives as intimidating. The intimidation boils down to two reasons: 1. Whether or not the educator as properly defined an objective and how to know? 2. Will other educators be impressed by the objectives?
The first intimidating factor is a result of educators who are not used to outlining objectives. It’s normal to question whether or not the objective is proper at first. Through experience, assessment, and reflection, the educator will learn if he is setting out reasonable goals.
- Experience is only gained by writing out objectives and teaching.
- Assessment is normally done to see if the students have reached the goal, but this may or may not happen in the same class. There are preliminary assessments and proper assessments (there will be upcoming articles on assessment).
- Reflection is something the educator should do automatically at the end of each lesson as to understand why or why not the objective was or wasn’t met.
Through this protocol the educator will gain confidence in creating lesson objectives. So the motto can basically be: Do it, assess it, and reflect on it!
The second intimidating factor can come from the fright of other educators viewing the objectives as too simple or amateurish. Unfortunately, this type of academic snobbery happens all the time in world of education. However, objectives are made according to many factors, such as the number of students, student level, classroom furniture, etc… Usually, other educators don’t have all the information needed to judge whether the objective is proper or not. The educator should be confident in the objectives made and allow assessment and reflection to show if it was proper or not. In other words, let others have their opinions and understand that assessment and reflection will provide a truer answer.
Authors note: I have created objectives with the thinking that if I pushed the objective higher it would overload the students. Only to find out later that they were capable of being pushed higher. Education is a profession where one is constantly developing, and the beliefs one held last year can mature and be refined into better understandings today. Every educator is on some level within professional development, it doesn’t matter on what level the educator resides, what matters is that one is not happy where he is at.
How to Create Objectives
Objectives are statements that describe what the student will take away from the lesson. Normally, they are “be going to” statements because they are easier to assess than some abstract reality. Objectives are built around several factors within the class.
- How many students are in the class and which of the four skills will be the main emphasis? Why combine student numbers and four skills together? If there are 50 students in a speaking class, then the objective will be vastly different than a speaking class with 20 students. However, if the class is focused on listening, the number of students may not matter.
- What is the level of the students? Normally, classes will be a mixture of student levels. So, now the question is where are the majority located according to level? If the majority of students are higher level, then it may be best to create higher level objectives. Likewise, if the majority is lower level, then expectations need to be lowered. Student level is not an exact science, so the educator needs to allow a little room for increasing or decreasing the goal of the class, especially when first starting the course.
- What furniture is available in the classroom? Is the classroom only equipped with a whiteboard, or is it technologically advanced with a computerized smart whiteboard? Is there a computer and projector to show powerpoint presentations or to view videos. Do all the students have access to a computer? All this factors into how much information the educator can convey to the student. For example, the educator wants the students to make marketing material for Niagara Falls. The students all know of Niagara Falls and can make marketing material, but if the educator is able to show a promotional video in class, then the expectations for what the students could produce should be elevated.
- Is the student textbook proper for the class? Most educators have no control over the textbooks that are chosen for the course, but it is the educator’s responsibility to adapt it to the level of the students. Likewise, the objectives for the lesson will conform to the manipulation of the material. Each textbook sets out objectives for each lesson, but the these don’t have to be the educator’s objectives. If sections of the book don’t meet the lesson objectives, skip it and replace it with something that does. Just because it’s in the book doesn’t mean it has to be done.
- Time? How much time does the educator have with the students? Objectives can drastically change if a class is only 40 minutes as opposed to 100 minutes.
Examples of Making Objectives
Scenario: The educator is in charge of teaching a five year old kindergarten class of five students. This is the first time they have studied English, and the classroom only has a whiteboard. The educator has a book and flashcards which focus on the alphabet for the first lesson. The class is 40 minutes long. What objectives can be made?
Objectives for the class:
- Students will be able to sing the alphabet song from A to G.
- Students will be able to write and know the difference between A, B, C.
These objectives seem attainable for the class through a series of song, coloring, and games in the allotted time. So what would a list of objectives that were too low or too high look like?
An example of objectives that may be too low:
- Students will be able to sing A,B,C.
- Students will be able to write the letter A.
Most educators would laugh at this because it is understood that students are capable of more, however don’t laugh, this is an easy example, but the equivalent happens every day with higher level lessons. If objectives are set this low, then the experience, assessment, and reflection should make it abundantly clear it was too low.
An example of objectives being too high or to impress others:
- Students will be able to sing the entire alphabet song.
- Students will be able to write the entire alphabet.
These objectives come from either a misunderstanding of what young learners are capable of, or with an emphasis to impress others by being overly ambitious. However, any educator who views these objectives should quickly realize that it is impossible with the student level and time. If the educator sets the bar too high, it should quickly be noticed in class and expectations lowered to a reasonable level.
Unfortunately, objectives will never be 100% proper for every class no matter how hard one tries. Having objectives in place allows the educator to aim for a destination in regards to what the students will take away from the class. With the active implementation of experience, assessment, and reflection, the educator will become more refined in stating objectives.. Regardless of whether the objective was perfect or not, the educator can use that information to understand what the objective should have been and what it should be as for the next lesson.
Designing objectives for a lesson or course is a lot like archery. Sometimes the educator hits a perfect ten and feels great. The next time, while trying to replicate that amazing shot, misses the entire target all together. The third time the educator needs to take time to collect himself, remember what he did on the perfect shot, and shoot again. Every lesson objective will not be a perfect ten, but like an archer that is dedicated to practice, he will eventually hit more targets than he misses.
Questions to Think About to Help Teaching
- When creating objectives, what is your main focus?
- How do you decide proper objectives for mixed level classes?
- Does your context increase or decrease your ability to create objectives? Why? How can you overcome lack of resources?
- If the textbook is too high or too low for your students, do you change your objectives? How?