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—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 straightforward 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 a 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.


  • I found this article accurate in its assessments of what is commonly missed during performance evaluations. Having recently completed my yearly performance evaluation with my boss I cen see where he missed the mark on his objectives for the coming year. The errors made leave me, the learner, open to interpret the goals of his performance outline as I see fit. Had the terms been clear, the criteria outlined in detail of what success in my position looks like and attaching condition within every objective my upcoming performance goals would have been much clearer with tangible objectives to reach and what reaching them looked like.

  • This article provided a detailed list of common errors experienced when writing learning objectives. The second error stood out to me the most. During this week’s assignment, I found myself using vague terms for performance. After I reviewed Bloom’s Taxonomy I was able to correct my objectives. I have noticed that the sixth error happens often. When a learning objective has two unrelated performance outcomes in a single objective it can confuse the subject. Creating concise learning objectives is the easiest way to make sure that they are understood. Great article!

  • Hello Professor Iverson,

    This was a great article! I agree with the common errors however I feel the easiest component to lose sight of is the conditions. Just like assuming 100% accuracy for performance, I feel like conditions can easily be assumed. As we focus on performance actions and how well we want the learner to do them, we can easily forget to set the stage in which they are to utilize the skill learned. This article was a great way to cap the lesson on learning objectives. Thank you!

  • After reading the post, it reminded me of what I learned in class this week regarding the ABCD framework. If performance is what the learner is able to do, that relates most to the behavioral aspect of the ABCD model. Criterion relates best to degree, or the quality of level of performance that is considered acceptable. Condition overlaps in both models. The only component missing from the Mager model is audience.

    I also agree being as clear and specific as possible is necessary to communicate an objective. Terms that are not observable and measurable make it difficult to assess the behavior.

  • After learning more about learning objectives in some of the MATD courses at RU, I have started to analyze learning objectives provided for some of the employee trainings I am currently involved in at work. I try to analyze them using the Mager (1997) framework and also the ABCD framework. I have noticed that most frequently the “condition” component seems to be missing or lacking key information about the circumstances under which the learned behavior/skills should be able to be performed. It could possibly be that the trainings I’m attending are broad and therefore they would like you to apply them to all aspects of your job or that the training is meant to cover all aspects of the topic so they can be universally applied. Either way, I have thought it was interesting to analyze utilizing these frameworks to better understand the though process behind the design concept of the training courses.

  • Hi Professor Iverson,

    Thank you for sharing such valuable information. Once of the things that sticks out to me is that there is a difference between stating objectives and an agenda. I think when you are delivering a training that both should be stated in some way so that the learners can follow where you’re going with the topic and why they should care about it. I see the need to address both mostly when you have something like a full day training session. However, if it’s an hour long presentation, there may be a little more flexibility but you should definitely state the objective in this case as well.

    A personal challenge that I am having is making sure that my objectives are specific enough and that they cover all 3 components (performance, condition, and criteria). Particularly, the higher you go up Bloom’s Taxonomy model the harder it may be to determine what the criteria component should be. For instance, if 100% is an arbitrary criterion, how would you go about identifying criteria is more concrete.

    Overall, I think it requires a lot of practice developing objectives and also seeing great examples will help grasp the concept better.


  • Writing objectives are really hard for me when we have to meet certain criteria in each objective. I like to write things plain and simple. Sometimes it don’t seem like enough info. So I struggle being creative and making up my own. Hopefully, with practice, I will get better.

  • Being a career-changer and being used to writing media objectives and goals for advertising campaigns, I found writing performance objectives very challenging as the set up is much different than how I was used to from my former career. For me the biggest challenge I had with writing performance objectives was keeping them in the present versus the future tense. What is going to happen “during the training” vs. “after or because” of the training. I also found it challenging to use diverse action verbs and naturally default to verbs such as “understand, know, and learn.” Also, being able to define a criterion can be challenging and mistakenly omitted, so its something I have to keep in mind when preparing learning objectives. Practice makes perfect and over time, I got the hang of it, but I know it’s something I’m going to have to keep actively practicing in order to be able to hit the mark and include all components each time.

  • Willie A. Edwards II

    I want to add one thing to this article: avoid the use of the word “and” when developing the performance (task) component of an objective.

    For example, “Given tools, 5 quarts of oil, an oil waste pan, a new oil filter, and an oil filter wrench, change the oil in a vehicle by following the manufacturer’s instructions”. There is no problem when using “and” as part of the condition. There is alignment from the condition to the performance, and the performance to the criterion (standard). The task is to “change the oil in a vehicle”. If it read “change the oil and antifreeze in a vehicle”, the student would be faced with two tasks to complete. The condition would need modification to include the additional items needed to change the antifreeze in the vehicle. If the student successfully changed the oil but not the antifreeze, do they fail the objective? If they need to be retested, is it on both tasks or just the one they failed?

    Stay away from using “and” as part of the performance component and you will avoid these headaches!

  • Alexandra Edwards

    One of my greatest challenges in creating objectives was being to vague! I fell into the trap of using terms that you can not properly measure. I used the common words like “learn” and “understand”. The instructor continued to work with me with feedback on what I was doing wrong and helped by sending me examples of better objectives. With writing objectives you have to ensure the participant has a full understanding of what they will learn from the course as well as show their work.

  • One of biggest challenges with writing objectives is making them specific to what I actually want to get done. I start thinking of the many layers and dimensions to a goal and end up adding way too many words in one statement. I know I also have a habit of listing objectives like an agenda as well. This article articulated spot on what I think are some of the biggest challenges to writing clear objectives!

  • I recall hating to write when I was younger. I know it was because I was not patient and wanted to just ‘get it over with”. Now, its one of my favorite challenges, because I strongly believe that making sure the reader is clear as to what was in my head is what I wrote. They deserve that.

    For me, that accountability transfers nicely to objectives. Yep, they are difficult, but it is my responsibility to clearly state what is to be expected in the training, as my future clients and learners deserve that. So I write, and re-write, and have other people read and keep trying, and I use all the tools I can.

    Mager’s three components, performance, condition, and criterion will be a go-to standard to assist me when writing my objectives. Thanks RU for introducing them to me.


  • I appreciate the focus of this article. It is important to realize that this is one of the most difficult steps anyone has to do when putting together any learning plan. I often find myself struggling with the verbose nature and the intrinsic need I have to include everything possible within the Performance Objective. Highlighting the three main components of Performance, Conditions and Criterion assist with the framework of writing a performance objective. When my thoughts are kept to this silo process, I am able to write and define a streamlined Performance Objective.

  • Michael A. Sullivan

    I am a knowledge manager by trade and have found that most people don’t know what they want. It is my goal as a knowledge manager to help identify key traits, ideas, or process that can fix/improve a process for a customer. Talking with the customer helps me to understand their true objective. For example, one customer said, my work shop does a poor job of keeping track of paperwork and I want to create a storage space for them to use. After a few conversations we identified that the real issue was that paperwork was getting lost in email and we needed to set up a system that was user friendly for paperwork to be routed properly and store the information. We identified that the objective of the project was to create a central storage area and that it needed to be routed correctly. The condition was using a collaboration tool to help manage the storage are where the information could be centrally located and notify members when the task was completed. Success was determined by members being informed. Thanks for helping me understand the way to example my purpose to potential customers!

  • I really appreciate this article. In my last class, we were instructed to do a lesson plan and I truly found out how important objectives are as well as how your entire lesson plan could be wrong without correct objectives. I found myself revising the objectives over and over again only to become more confused. Objectives seem fairly easy but it is a different ball game when you are actually writing them (ABCD Method). The common errors listed are some that I found myself doing. To add to the list of errors, I would say using terms that are clear to me because I’m the one writing the objective, but they may not be clear to the person reading them and they may need more clarification.

    I find that the more I write objectives, the more comfortable I become with them. Your list of common errors make the task easier.

    • Nicole, I agree with your statement. Having the correct objectives could make or break your lesson plans! Writing objectives frequently will enhance your skill level and make lesson plan writing easy and effective for you and your audience.

  • So simple, yet so hard…

    From my experience as a classroom teacher and throughout my TRDV program, learning objectives at first seem like they should be black and white to create. Just think, what is the main take away my learners need to gain. In other words, what is the purpose of me creating this training. What I find to be the most challenging is not what is the main take away, but how am I going to measure my learner’s take away with correct alignment. In other words, the carry through between what is being taught and how it is to be assessed is the real struggle. Questions like, what condition am I going to create for my learners?, What Bloom’s Taxonomy best measures the main takeaway? Then what is the appropriate standard of criterion for my learners? All these questions makes me wonder is there any one recipe for success when it comes to writing objectives? Any full proof way to test every objective you write for accuracy in regards to the instructional designer who wrote the objective? If so, I am still trying to figure it out. Let me know if anyone else has come close to cracking the code to writing fool proof objectives every time. I’d appreciate your comments.


  • This article was a great summary of some of the challenges instructional designers are faced with when writing performance objectives. At the moment, I can’t think of any other mistakes designers make, other than not knowing what constitutes a well-written objective. I can certainly admit that I don’t write the “perfect performance objective(s)” all the time. During my training career at my former employer, I heard of the ABCD’s of writing objectives from my colleagues, but didn’t think it was a big not to have all components until I took the Instructional Methods course. Now I realize that objectives need to be measurable and observable, as well as align to the organizational goals and learner’s expectations of the course.

    The inclusion of the performance and condition components has been my success when writing objectives. I keep a printed copy of the action verbs at my desk and refer to it often when writing objectives because I want to ensure I have the correct verb based on the content. Now, I will admit that my condition is usually the same, so I probably need to look at this a little more closely. The part I struggle with, even today, is including a criterion (degree) in my objective. I spend more time these days writing objectives for my training courses because it takes me a long time to create the criterion.

    Thanks for writing this article as it is a great reminder to us all.


  • Thank you for calling out the essential link between the action specified in an objective and the assessment that is intended to measure that action. There are times that I have done exactly what you noted- specified “describe” as the action and then put a multiple choice question in the assessment. Seeing this bullet point is a good reminder to design the assessment to support the objective, not counter it.

  • Mary Zmorzynski Dojutrek

    When creating (drafting and re-drafting) performance objectives, I catch myself with dead end adverbs–effectively, accurately, properly, etc. What does effectively look like? As the author states, the criterion should be measurable: how much, how many, how well? Instead of effectively, I will evaluate 4 training programs, or I will track 25% of the participants. For me, removing the adverb in the criterion is almost as important as the verb I select for the performance.


  • Therese Pompei Cabrera

    I have taken instructional methods last semester, and have found myself not being able to move forward with constructing the lesson plan without a clear objective. I have to admit, outlining how to do an objective could easily be said than done. Although, the article listed great points on challenges when it comes to writing objectives which we could reference to when creating objectives in the future.

    I think the two of the biggest challenge will be constructing a criterion specifically number 3 and 5. I have taken training sessions on my current and previous jobs, and most of the objectives that they have presented failed to present a clear indication of how they would measure a trainee’s learning.

  • This article is a great reinforcement of “beginning with the end in mind.” By establishing performance objectives prior to developing, delivering, and measuring the outcome of training and OD programs, it provides the leadership team with awareness of the standard of performance that must be coached and developed amongst their teams to ensure that there is a knowledge transfer to job performance and a “stickiness” that will truly result in an ROI. It also provides the OD professional with a roadmap of which to work backwards and design content and deliver in a way that leads to the expected performance objectives. This can serve a an important stakeholder management tool to ensure that the OD team and the leadership team are in alignment about the outcome of programs and also working towards the same objectives. In terms of adding to the list of challenges for writing perfect performance objectives, one additional that I would add is listing too many objectives and expecting that training will address a broad range of performance gaps, when it may be related to one or two.

  • I think that this article definitely explains the common pitfalls, but I still think it’s more difficult than even this article can describe. Even when reading through what is written here, it’s hard to define what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” when all of the training situations that we are writing performance objectives for are so different. I do think that it’s easier to use the format above (Performance, Condition, Criterion) than other formats that I have used. I have learned how to write performance objectives from three different professors and they all have different critiques.

    The biggest advice I have with them is to make sure they are specific and measurable. If you can’t measure whether the goal has been achieved to it’s fullest degree, why even set the goal/objective?

  • I like the framework you used for a perfect performance objective using references. I appreciated the six examples of common errors. Seeing the errors helps me understand how easy it is to have an error in a performance objective. I’ve seen the mistake in number six often because there is too much going on. Maybe at first glance, it sounds nice, but there are two verbs which complicate what the learner is supposed to be able to do.

    I can’t think of another error I’ve seen, but I also like the example in number three. I think people can get the criterion and assessment confused because they think they know what the verb means because they’ve heard and used it often, but a helpful trick I find is to spend the extra 20 seconds and look up what the verb actually means.

    For example, “Describe”, may not be a “cool” word, but it means: give an account in words of (someone or something), including all the relevant characteristics, qualities, or events. “Describe” could be the best verb for the objective you want the learner to achieve.

  • Listing common errors is a helpful reminder of how to write decent objectives. Another two I’ll add are first, don’t overthink it. Sometimes we overwork writing objectives when they can be simple and straightforward. Using the SMART method is helpful to keep the objective focused on one outcome. A second is, don’t write objectives to fit activities. There are many tempting instructional methods but assigning an activity to a task before the objective is backwards. Define the objectives and then determine the best methods to achieve them.

  • I love the article, but for me with any training that I have received in the workforce is that the training doesn’t suit the job. Some of the training isn’t updated to suit the current climate of the workforce. Performance indicators aren’t current as well as KPI’s. In every training process, the of performance, conditions, and criterion needs to be followed.

  • Before taking classes in trdv I never know what a performance objective was. Now that I’ve taken several courses, I have been able to grasp the concept and see the value in them. My biggest challenge is making sure I am using measurable or observable verbs.

    Can you add to my list of common errors?

    Maybe-Listing steps that are actually included in another learning objective, making them redundant.

  • I’m a little late. I enjoyed the article Professor Iverson wrote. I agree with her regarding writing down what you learn. To me, that’s a great way to learn and grow from the training. I like the idea of different training methods to include in any future training I may do. Performance objectives may be difficult depending on how the training is conducted. I think if you orchestrate the training to be more understanding.

  • I enjoyed reading this article as it led me to consider my plans for creating learning objective for my staff training program next year. I appreciate Professor Iverson’s statement regarding the importance of creating a list of objectives in a way that is more intentional. This is something that we are focusing on in our department: being more intentional in every aspect of our individual roles.

    Using vague terms is something that I struggle with in general. Therefore, I appreciate the list of useful verbs provided in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Although this is the case, I find myself being somewhat repetitive by using the same verbs. This is something that I hope to improve on by taking this course.

    I look forward to future articles!

    -Michel McBride

  • Although, I have read many things about writing the best performance objective, I had many highlights from this article. Mainly because it was very simple to reflect and tie to real world experiences. My primary takeaway was where it stated, “Just write down what learners will do after they complete their training…” I took a lot from this because it was human talk. nothing too complicated because when you think of performance objectives in layman’s terms per se, then one can really capture the essence of what is trying to be achieved by the learner.

    I do sometimes think that I may make my performance objective more convoluted due to I want to ensure that it has enough “va-va-voom” to be inserted into a professional training session, but what I have come to realize and this article exemplified exactly what I need to stop doing is keep it simple and easy to understand. I have made some of the common errors listed before, especially using extra verbiage and forgetting tangible measurement, so I will take note of these moments and use Bloom’s Taxonomy when I am veering to far into the bunny trail.

    What do you all think?

    Thank you,

  • As an L&D professional with many years of experience in sales and sales leadership I am often asked by sales managers to help their people learn how to close better. Upon examination, I rarely find that the problem is the salesperson not knowing how to close. Rather, the problem is typically that the sales opportunity was not well qualified to begin with, thus there was nothing to close. So it is with objectives and a successful training outcome. How often have we heard about training that does not “hit the mark”? When I hear this, what do you think I do? I examine the objectives! Like the sale that cannot be closed because it was not a properly qualified opportunity in the first place, training based on weak or non-existent objectives has limited ability to be successful. Quoting from the second habit the late Stephen Covey covers in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “being with the end in mind”.

  • This article really made me give some thought about how I deliver my trainings, communicate and tailor my delivery to my trainees. Creating objectives that are attainable from new knowledge communications that you deliver as a trainer should be tailored to your audience to be most effective. I do believe no matter how much information or tools that you apply with the knowledge you’ve learned over time, the way you train others will essentially changed. With technology being an being a main component of how the world operates, I think keeping a particular esthetic along with applying modernization is a key component to being a Trainer.

  • After just having written my first and then first revised attempt at a learning objective, I found it to be much more difficult than I originally anticipated. This post lets me know that I’m not alone in this, thankfully. The list of common mistakes make it easier to understand what needs to be specified. Of particular interest to me are the points of keeping only one goal per line and not adding too many unnecessary words/descriptors. In general, I tend to have trouble keeping my writing concise, and these tips will help remind me of the importance of this when writing objectives.

    Additionally, the common mistake of not matching the objective to the form of assessment is crucial. I imagine the best way to avoid this would be to design the assessment in conjunction with the course & objectives in order to keep them aligned. This can be hard considering how busy we are, but working on them together will likely mean for the better assessments.

  • Very recently I was faced with many of these follies at work. My team has never carved out performance objectives and very recently, we tried to take it head-on. More than 80% of the objectives had the action “know” or “understand” and it was initially very hard for them to understand why any additional effort was needed. Countering protests with “what does understanding actually look like” helped. Likewise, I had my own follies with the objectives. Many of mine were muddled because I was trying to bundle them all into a single goal. As the article states, there can definitely be more to objectives than first anticipated and they are important because they connect throughout the training.

  • Using vague terms for performance in an objective shows a lack of understanding why we use have a performance objective to begin with. So why? We do it to make sure that our training is focused on creating a specific out action that is judged by a specific out come. If we don’t do that we risk trying to do too much or not enough. The analogy I thought of was in trying to teach basketball. You simply can’t do that. There are too many variables. You can focus on making layups from within 3 feet of the basket. Being specific allows you to keep track of what you’ve learned and taught. Having this inventory allows you to focus on building an inventory that hones in on results you want.

  • I found Mager’s framework and the list of pitfalls very useful. These are easy mistakes to make, and calling our attention to them is a great way to create a practical checklist for designers. It’s true that these are straightforward concepts to grasp but can be more difficult when applying them in the design process. The two that strike me are “failing to link the criterion to the assessment tool” and creating “objectives that read like agendas.” Matching objectives and assessments and streamlining objectives are essential for effective trainings and take special time and attention during the design process. These comments give us good ideas for revising our existing trainings and for producing new ones.

  • I think this article is a great example of using powerful words in order to command attention. For example, there is a big difference between the words “should” and “will,” when used to measure success. This article shows us how powerful the ABC&D method is a well.

  • What I appreciate most about this article is the explanation of common errors made when creating objectives. Most notably error #2, “Using vague terms for performance like understand, know, and learn”. I often see vague terms in many of the training objectives I come across, and honestly I have to watch myself when creating objectives to not use vague terms. I do not ever recall hearing about Robert Mager’s “Perfect Performance Objectives”, I’ve only been exposed to Bloom’s Taxonomy which I find is sometimes overwhelming. Mager’s framework I think can simplify the objective writing process for those new to objective writing, especially if they have the list of errors provided in this blog post to help avoid the typical pitfalls of objective writing. I believe if one were to use both Mager’s framework and Bloom’s Taxonomy together they could create strong objectives that not only helps in the training evaluation process, but also allows the learner to know exactly what they should walk away from the training with.

  • Kiára Nichele Elam

    This article was very interesting to read. The framework that Robert Mager uses is very similar to the A-B-C-D objective method. The only true difference that I recognized is the lack of specifically stating the audience (it seems that the audience is just known). I keep seeing the question, how do you measure understanding? I suppose one could measure if the content was understood by giving a test? But in reality, if the subject at hand was learning theories, I guess it would still be better to phrase the objective as, “The learner will be able demonstrate the knowledge of the different learning theories, with minimal difficulty, by taking a multiple choice test at the end of the module.” This sounds more direct and measurable instead of simply stating, “The learning will be able to understand the different learning theories by the end of the module.”

  • This article was great, It really broke down the objective process. including the errors was super helpful it allowed me to check back over my own objective and see where I might have dropped the bar. For me the criterion or degree is the hardest part for me, you always ask yourself how can you measure this and what is enough.

  • As I read this post, I imagined raising my hand. I AM the novice objective writer and I struggle with conveying criterion in the objective. The desire is to complete at 100% but I know that’s unrealistic, so I truly struggle with saying just how much is enough.

    Additionally, I have a desire to include a “why”/justification to the objective. This is not a part of the framework but seems like a reasonable add especially for readers of the objectives who weren’t part of the decision to train team.

  • This was extremely helpful; #4 especially. Many times we add too much to an objective statement. The actually objective is hidden by the fluff. It is important to be clear, concise, and measurable so that the objective can be easily understood.

  • The best part of this article for me was the common errors designers make when creating objectives, specifically #3. It’s so important to “start with the end in mind” and think about how you will measure the change in knowledge, skills, behavior, or attitudes. Objectives can sometimes be too complex in an attempt to be perfect. Like error #4, objectives should not be looked at as a all inclusive list of what must be done. In my opinion, they must provide enough information to act as the foundation for a training process – kind of like a mission statement is to a business.

  • What stood out to me the most on your article is the use of the word “measurable” in #2 of the common errors list. Measurable is a key component, I believe, in writing solid performance objectives. If we are not careful we can write objectives that are subjective to the reviewer or person evaluating us, versus being based on hard data. This is an area that I am personally working on, in order to be able to evaluate a training program, or performance objective, I need to ensure that it is measurable.

  • Such a great article. I have seen many combinations of the six objectives you’ve written in various points in my academic and professional career. To be honest, before entering this program, I use to write very simple objectives that were not measurable. Crafting true performance objectives for any type of training requires a lot of work, because you are assessing the facilitation and expected comprehension of content and delivery.


  • Developing an objective that is both accurate and fully comprehensive seems to be more difficult than I thought. This is largely in part due to the subjective nature around the final statement. Who decides if an objective meets the standards of an intervention strategy? Should we allow for the consultant/practitioner eot take lead, or the client to hone in on where they would like the work to go? Must we always make it a collaborative effort to reach consensus?

    Aside from having all three of the basic components for an objective statement to read successful, I’m more curious about the process of getting there. It seems as if the consultant needs to think far ahead to what a potential outcome of the intervention may be in order to step back and make a statement about result from an aerial view. The stability or flexibility of an objective statement from the perspective of Mager’s framework is a little vague. I’m not 100% familiar with the details of the model, but it reads a bit sure given the suggestions to building a well stated objective. Diving deeper into the specifics and testing the process is something I look forward to learning more about.

  • Thanks for a very useful review! I appreciate the reminder about putting unrelated outcomes into one learning objective. I see this frequently in objectives, and I have made that mistake myself on occasion. I think it’s important for the trainer but also for learners to separate out ideas. It makes it much easier to design learning activities when you are clear about all the things learners should be able to do. It can also help scaffold learning much more effectively.

    I have found it so helpful to keep focusing on writing learning objectives in most of the TRDV classes. I understood the basics when I started the program, but the repeated practice has helped me improve my objectives and clarify my design strategies. You can’t focus on how to teach something before you’ve defined what you’re teaching! (And you certainly can’t assess learning if you didn’t define what that learning would look like, either.) Objectives are the foundation on which you build.

  • Excellent article! In my opinion performance objectives help the learner to plan and organize their work in accordance with achieving predetermined results or outcomes. When setting and completing effective performance objectives, learners are able to:
    • Develop knowledge and skills that help them thrive, take on additional responsibilities, or pursue their career aspirations;
    • Support or advance the organization’s vision, mission, values, principles, strategies, and goals;
    Without setting clear performance objectives, learners may become confused when attempting to prioritize. The absence of effective goal setting substantially reduces productivity.

  • Performance Objectives are extremely important to include in all training programs or modules. Think about performance objectives in terms of a roadmap. It’s a great directional guide that sets the expectations of the class in regards to what the facilitator will discuss and how participants will benefit from the key deliverables in the curriculum. It also outlines how the training program will help each participant meet their own learning goals and objectives by attending the training program. Often times, performance objectives can also be used to entice participants to register for a particular training program as well. Have you ever registered for a training program based on listed performance objectives outlined in registration materials and were either pleasantly surprised or disappointed after attending the training program?

    I’ve experienced the good, weak, and invisible in terms of performance objectives both from the participant and facilitator’s perspective. Those that were good, more than likely emulated Mager’s framework by using all three of his performance, condition, and criterion components. They were clear, precise, and accurate in describing the course curriculum. The weak performance objectives were written in a haphazard format with little to know clarity and completely off the mark to what was actually included in the training program curriculum. Invisible performance objectives are just altogether absent and neither the facilitator nor participant can clearly grasp the direction or outcome of what will be included in the training program curriculum.

    At the end of training programs that include performance objectives, I’ve also seen it reintroduced at the end of the training program in the form of “what we learned” recap. The disappointment from a participant’s perspective is not receiving what was expected to be delivered in the first place. This could have a far reaching impact on how a participant will respond on any training program post survey or evaluation conducted.

    There is another common performance objective error that comes to mind. Writing performance objectives that are non-existent in the overall training program curriculum being delivered to the participants.

  • Thank you for posting this article. These tips and also examples of common errors will be very beneficial throughout my academic and professional career. I’ve seen how performance objectives that are measurable not only help the individuals who are learning, but the teacher or facilitator as well.

    Point #3 in the common mistakes really stood out to me.

    “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.”

    I have made this mistake before. It is very important to administer the proper tests to align with the information provided.

  • I think this article provided a very comprehensive list of errors made in the objective writing process. I do not have much experience in writing objectives, but I am curious as to what mistakes I may fall victim to in the process or what new ones I might discover along the way. I’ll be sure to post any for you all that I come across.

    I think Robert Mager’s framework for performance objectives is a useful tool in crafting objectives. Bloom’s Taxonomy can further guide and supplement the process. His lists of verbs and which category they fall in I find especially helpful. Both are necessary to use for well-developed objectives.

    To my fellow classmates, I suggest using the above list of common errors as a check for your written objectives. See if it holds up or has one or more of the errors listed above. I’d be shocked to hear of anyone writing perfect objective statements the first try unless they have years of experience in doing so. I like to think of it as a more fluid than linear process. You will likely have several drafts before the final version hits all three critical components of performance, conditions and criterion.

    Let me know your thoughts.


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