Perfect Performance Objectives

By: Kathleen Iverson

targetAt first glance the premise of the perfect performance objective is deceptively simple. Dick and Carey (2009) define performance objectives as statements of what the learners will be expected to do when they have completed a specified course of instruction, written in terms of observable performance. To most novice designers, this sounds easy enough—just write down what learners will do after they complete their training. Experienced designers know that objectives are much more than a laundry list of desired outcomes. They provide an essential link between each phase of the training process from needs assessment, to design, delivery, and finally, evaluation. Trainers who scratch out their objectives quickly and easily are likely missing an essential component.

So what is a perfect performance objective? The most widely used framework for performance objectives was developed by Robert Mager (1997) and specifies three components that are included in each objective:

  • Performance – what the learner is to be able to do.  This is best described by using an active verb like list, describe, discuss, draw, explain.
  • Conditions – important resources or constraints.  For example: without using references; or using a map.  Think about what will be provided to the learner.
  • Criterion – the quality or level of performance that will be considered acceptable.  Think of this in terms of standards.  How much, how many, how well should the learner perform?

Although writing objectives can be very straight forward using Mager’s framework, even the most experienced instructional designer may find it challenging to hit the mark every time on every objective. So where do we go wrong? Here are some common errors that novice and experienced designers have made when crafting performance objectives:

  1. Failing to include each component in every objective (performance, condition, and criteria).
  2. Using vague terms for performance like understand, know, and learn. These terms are not readily observable and measurable. Think about it—how do we see and measure understanding? In fact, how do we define understand without adding specific behaviors? When in doubt, refer to verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy (2001).
  3. Failing to link the criterion to the assessment tool. For example, an objective might state that the learner will “describe the three components of a performance objective,” yet, in actuality, learners take a multiple choice test, which really measures recall.
  4. Objectives that read like agendas. Adding unnecessary detail and specifics about the training sequence that fill the objective with confusing verbiage.
  5. Lack of clarity in the criterion. We often miss the mark by specifying an arbitrary criterion of “100% accuracy.”
  6. Including multiple unrelated performance outcomes in a single objective: “Learners will recognize the benefits of writing objectives and differentiate between the three components of an objective.”

Please add a comment to this article to share your challenges and successes in writing perfect performance objectives. Can you add to my list of common errors?


Anderson, L., Krathwohl, D., & Bloom, B. (2001) A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

Dick, W. ,Carey, L. Carey, J. (2009). The Systematic Design of Instruction. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Pearson.

Mager, R. (1997) Preparing Instructional Objectives: A critical tool in the development of effective instruction. Atlanta, GA:  Center for Effective Performance.

Posted in Human Performance Improvement, Instructional Design, Training | Leave a comment

A Welcome Note from the Program Coordinator


All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. The fun is in making the connections. – Arthur Aufderheide

Whether you are a returning student or just starting out, we want to take a moment and sincerely welcome you to the school year. We look forward to building connections and having some fun along the way.

Before we start having too much fun, there are a few “coordinator” items I’d like to share with you. First off,  all TRDV courses are 8-week sessions. We are the only graduate program at the University to offer classes in this accelerated format for our adult students. This means you can take two classes back-to-back within the same semester instead of taking them concurrently. This works particularly well when classes need to be taken in succession so you can compete both in one seamless semester, for example TRDV 451 Instructional Systems Design and TRDV 470 Instructional Systems Design-2.

Speaking of TRDV 451 and TRDV 470, the new session format has led to a different approach to online modules in these classes. Professor Cyboran, who is teaching both classes in the fall,  will open weekly class modules on Wednesdays allowing the full weekend plus a couple days to complete course work. This may look different to returning students who are accustomed to seeing modules open earlier in the week.

Our faculty stayed busy this summer teaching along with revising classes to 8-week sessions. I had the chance to connect with alumni and attend professional events like the Chicago eLearning and Technology Showcase earlier this month. The showcase highlighted mobile learning and gamification. As advancements continue to open up more delivery options it is good remember when and why we use this technology. I think the keynote speaker, Cammie Bean,VP of Learning Design at Kineo, summed it up when she said, “e-learning isn’t about the technology—but all about the people”.

Finally, let’s talk about graduation. Graduation applications should be submitted by August 29th to avoid a late fee. For more information on applying for a degree please visit the Graduation Office

On behalf of the Training and Development Department, we hope you have a great semester and build lots of meaningful connections!

Tara Hawkins, TRDV Program Coordinator





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ATD Virtual Job Fair


Take Your Career to the Next Level.

Join us for the first ever ATD Virtual Career Fair on September 15th from 12:00-3:00pm EDT. During this virtual event you’ll connect with employers from companies nationwide who are looking for candidates just like you. The great part—you don’t have to leave your home or office. A new career path is just a click away!

Benefits of Attending the ATD Virtual Career Fair:

  • Browse employer booths, complete with featured job listings
  • Download benefits information and watch employer videos right from your computer
  • Have live conversations with recruiters via instant chat
  • Meet multiple recruiters without leaving your home or office

Watch this video to get a better idea of how the ATD Virtual Career Fair Works:


Register today for the ATD Virtual Career Fair.



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Digital Compentecy….How are YOUR Skills?

On August 19, Training Magazine is hosting a free webinar on this topic.  Click here to register.


Vince Cyboran

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Beyond the Myers-Briggs: Assessment tools for Organization Development Practitioners

Each year millions of copieMyersBriggss of the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) are administered by counselors, coaches, and consultants yet some experts in the field of psychometrics are not impressed by the reliability and validity of the instrument.  Still others feel that its role in executive coaching is very limited (see Wagner 2003, Using the MBTI as a tool for leadership development?  Use with caution).

There are a number of other common tools used in coaching that are nearly as popular as the MBTI:

Although these tools can offer insight and information that might be useful in coaching, I’d first like to emphasize that these are simply one piece of the assessment puzzle and although all have been tested, none are completely valid and reliable in all situations

There are many other assessment tools than can be used to gain useful information when the need arises.  Here are some often overlooked instruments to consider adding to your coaching toolbox that have been proven valid and reliable:

What are your thoughts about the MBTI and other tools?  Can you locate a link to an additional instrument or tool that might be used in Organization Development at the individual, team, or organization-wide level?

Posted in Human Performance Improvement, Mentoring, Organizational Development | 21 Comments

Social Justice and one of our own: Israel Vargas, MATD 2008



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Accelerated Online Courses: New Strategies for Successful Learning

As we begin rolling out our new eight-week online courses this summer, it’s important to consider the strategies that student need to be successful in an accelerated online format.

Accelerated online courses can save you time and money and are good for the environment too! Rather than commuting to and from class, you can complete your course when it’s convenient for you. Online learning can take place anywhere—across the nation, overseas, on plane, train, or even in a submarine (yes, we had a student complete online courses while on submarine duty in the Navy). Our accelerated courses last for 8 weeks, allowing you to focus on a course topic and often complete your degree program more quickly and efficiently. At the same time though, accelerated online classes require diligence and hard work of both the students and teacher.

All our online courses are carefully designed to maximize your learning experience. Based on the latest research in the best practices in online teaching, they incorporate constructivist, social, and experiential learning theory and practice to help you learn more effectively. You will use technology to interact with your instructor, your fellow students, and relevant course content. You will have the opportunity to develop knowledge that will directly benefit you in your career by applying what you are learning it to real life problems. Keep in mind that you are not a passive observer in our courses, but an active participant. Learning takes place when we not only take in new information, but also do something with it! To make learning stick, we must discuss it with classmates and experts, use it to solve real life problems, connect it with our work, and most importantly, reflect on what we are learning. Our courses provide ample opportunity for these critical learning activities. Assignments and activities are designed to help you deepen your understanding and apply what you learn to new situations.

Accelerated courses require dedicated commitment from you. What you put into your course will greatly affect what you get from it. You will need to be more diligent than ever to make sure that you don’t fall behind to maximize your learning benefit.

Here are strategies used by past students that helped them succeed in accelerated courses:

  • Complete readings before the Module begins to make sure you are off to a quick start.
  • Log into the course site at least 3 times each week to post to forums and follow-up on the posts of others.
  • Start working on written assignments early in the Module so you aren’t rushing at the end to finish.
  • Don’t forget to take the time to reflect on what you have learned. Considering recording your learning in a journal or notebook to take an active role in your learning experience. Also, be sure to think about how you might use and apply what you have learned.

Summary of Key Points

  • Learning is not a spectator sport—you need to stay actively involved.
  • Take initiative and be a self-directed learner.
  • Accelerated courses move quickly and require regular attention and diligence.
  • You will learn more and use it more effectively if you stay active and engaged.
  • Your assignments will help you learn and apply new knowledge.

We want to hear from you. If you are a student taking an accelerated online course or a teacher facilitating a course, add a comment to this post to let us know if you have additional suggestions or success strategies to add to our list.

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