This week we talk about objectives and why we need them in instructional design. Learning objectives ensure that both students and instructors are clear about wanted learning outcomes. It also helps to design evaluation instrument because evaluation items should align with the measurable objectives. Besides, it has been proved that students that know what exact terminal behaviors are more likely to learn better than those who doesn’t.
We discussed the advantages of using learning objectives in many aspects, which I thought were widely recognized in education. In nearly all my undergraduate courses, syllabi with specified objectives were distributed to students and the instructor often made a further explanation about them in the first class. So I was a little bit shocked when Prof. Pusch said that teachers & experts in fields other than education actually didn’t attach importance to writing good objectives. Then I asked my roommate who studies Finance here about her attitudes towards objectives and impact they created on her study. Her answer was “I have never read them though I know they are listed on the syllabus”. According to her, some professors in Whitman even never talked about learning objectives. “Sometimes you just feel confused because you don’t know what you are learning and which parts are important”, said she. Another example comes from my friends in LC Smith School. I have heard their complaints of test ever since the first quiz they toke. No relevance! They cried out. They told me it was so common to find nothing (occasionally a pretty small portion) related to the knowledge/ topic that dominated a two-hour class in an exam. Sadly and obviously, they didn’t get good scores. We don’t mean to encourage test-oriented learning here, but students should be able to differentiate key points in this chunk from trivial things after class. Perhaps their professor regards this sort of quiz & exams as “external stimulus”, but it brings too much negative effect on students’ confidence as well as their meta-cognitive knowledge of learning (they might question themselves “do I really acquire the knowledge”).
As for Bloom’s taxonomy of learning objectives, I have to say that I love that list. It is useful tool for instructional design and people could simply pick an appropriate verb that makes terminal behavior measurable. In a blog post I read recently, however, critiques on it were stated as below.
“One person planned a simple game to reinforce Bloom’s taxonomy. The group was divided into two teams, and one person at a time from each team came up to the front and faced each other across a table. The “game show host” read a “Bloom verb” off an index card and the contestants slapped the table to see who could classify it first.
What would you guess happened? Think about a verb like “Determine”: where would you classify it?
The game almost immediately devolved into arguments over where the verbs belong. The poor activity leader had consulted a single list and didn’t even consider that different lists categorize verbs differently. Sometimes a single list classifies verbs in different places. This Bloom verb list, for example, classifies “identify” as both Knowledge and Comprehension; another list puts “compare” and “contrast” both in Analysis and Evaluation, depending on whether you use them together or separately.”
I don’t think people’s different interpretations of a word would have much side impact on learning outcomes. Let’s say, the instructor use “compare” in objective statement with the initial purpose at the “Analysis” level, and students think that they should achieve the “Evaluation” level. Probably they would study harder and probably the final performance is beyond their expectation. Bloom’s taxonomy is illustrated in a pyramid, behaviors listed in the lower layers are usually part of advanced-level behavior in upper layers. “Compare” and “Contrast” are two things we do in evaluation. If students could reach a higher-level learning objective, they certainly have achieve the lower-level first.