An instructional goal is
a statement that describes, in general terms, what learners should be
able to DO forever after experiencing a distinct unit of instruction
(referred to in a broad sense as an “instructional intervention” and in
a specific sense as a “lesson”). An instructional goal is often a
direct solution to an instructional need. In order to define
instructional goals, teachers must follow basic steps:
Step One: Describe an
Step Two: Determine
whether or not an instructional goal is desired.
Step Three: If #2 is
“yes,” generate an initial goal draft statement describing behaviors
representing “what should be”
Step Four: Describe
the parameters of the learning environment
Step Five: Identify
and describe a meaningful, purposeful learning context
Step Six: Use the
information from steps 3 – 5 to write a complete goal statement.
Step One: Describe the
learners’ instructional need. An instructional need reflects the
gap between what the learners may already know how to do and what you
want them to be able to do (or what you want them to CHOOSE to do).
is -------> what should be
Note: Not all educational needs are
instructional. See Step Two below for information about needs that
will not be addressed via goal-directed instruction.
Determine whether or not an instructional goal is desired.
Decisions surrounding the development of
goal-directed instruction are based on the nature of the instructional
needs identified. Teachers developing goal-directed instruction operate
under the assumption that no matter how complicated a particular
instructional need might seem, a goal can be stated which describes
behavior(s) that can meet the need. Once a goal is articulated, it is
analyzed and broken down into its subordinate or constituent skills.
These subordinate skills are then classified and sequenced, and the most
appropriate learning strategies and conditions for each type of skill
are incorporated into the developing instruction.
design is not generally based on an immediate or easily identifiable
instructional needs. Non goal-directed instruction is often utilized
when the teacher/designer believes that, for their purpose, the whole of
learning cannot be articulated in a simple statement of behavioral
change. This notion follows the reasoning that, since learners will
construct their own meaning to every event they experience within an
instructional experience (and they each have unique previous experiences
with which to interpret information and events within the learning
environment), it is not necessary or even possible to deconstruct and
describe the precise behavioral changes that should occur within each
unique learner following their interactions with a unit of instruction.
Emphasis in non goal-directed design is placed on structuring
“authentic” learning experiences in which learners have access to enough
information within the experience to learn what they need to learn to
succeed. Provisions are made for individual support when needed (such
as “scaffolding” techniques), and the use of collaborative groups are
often implemented to ensure strong social support (and to add to the
authentic nature of the experience).
Teachers also choose
to not utilize an instructional goal-directed model of design when there
is no expectation that all learners will (or should) learn everything
the teacher/designer wants them to learn. Courses in college designed
to “weed out” students by placing extreme demands on them and forcing
them into a self-directed and self-discipline experience generally have
no use for instructional models that are designed to support and enable
all learners to learn what is expected.
Step Three: Draft an initial goal
statement. This can be accomplished by describing what you hope the
learners will be able to do differently as a result of the instructional
experience you will be designing. These behavioral changes MUST be
something that is achievable through the instruction for the target
Learners will write a five-paragraph essay
with few grammatical errors. [This is a GOOD initial draft of a goal
because it does represent a change in behavior that is achievable
Learners will slam
dunk a basketball on a standard basketball court. [This is BAD initial
draft of a goal because it places a limit on the learner’s ability to
perform the skill. The instruction won’t be able to effectively address
the height prerequisite. Unless of course the goal is to be used in an
NBA training camp program!]
Step Four: Describe the parameters of the learning environment. In other
words, list those things in the learning environment that might
influence and affect the manner in which the learners will interact with
the instruction. The following list represents some of the more common
parameters to be considered:
- Complete in-class
- Number of
- Amount and type of
available resources (including computers)?
- Distance learning
environment factors (completely Web-based? Interactive television?
- Time constraints?
- Homogeneous or
heterogeneous by achievement target population?
Identify and describe a meaningful, purposeful learning context.
Determining and describing a meaningful,
purposeful context in which the identified outcomes are acquired and/or
applied can be accomplished in many different ways, for example:
Identify how the outcomes
are used in the real world, then approximate as closely as possible a
context in which the skills are actually used in the real world.
Establish a simulation or
situation in which the learners "pretend" to be somebody else and/or
somewhere else (consider the used of cased-based and/or problem-based
Develop open-ended projects
in which many content and design decisions are left up to the individual
learners, but strict evaluation criteria are established.
Consider the use of mediated
contexts derived from the categories indicated in “How to Use Computers
to Define Meaningful and Purposeful learning Contexts”
Goal: Each student
will write a descriptive paragraph free of grammatical errors.
writing descriptive paragraphs is often part of communicating with other
people via letters, an excellent overall context for this outcome would
be establishing e-mail correspondences between the students and people
they care about.
*Note: Although a
purposeful, meaningful context should be addressed in the goal
statement, the subordinate skills to be learned or applied do not
necessarily need to be completely dependent on the context.
Step Six: Use the information from Steps Three – Five to write a goal
statement that addresses the instructional need, states results in terms
of learner performance (the learners will....), describes or implies a
purposeful, meaningful context, and includes relevant information about
any limitations or expectations imposed by the parameters of the
The most difficult part of writing a good
goal statement is clearly communicating the skills or performances you
want the learners to be able to acquire though the instruction. The
best way to approach this part of the goal statement creation is to
begin by generating a list of all the behaviors the learner should
perform to demonstrate that they have achieved the goal within the
context described. Next, analyze the expanded list of behaviors and
select those that best reflect achievement of the goal.
Here’s an example
from an Educational Foundations faculty member:
Students will understand
how the major philosophical positions in the early 1900's contributed to
the development of the public school system in the United States.
will describe how the major philosophical positions in the early 1900's
contributed to the development of the public school system in the United
Making changes to
improve the educational system in this country is a very, very difficult
challenge for professional educators to confront. Students will address
this issue by identifying a specific problem facing their cooperating
teacher, and they will write a report identifying and explaining the
historic reasons why specific barriers currently exist that may be
inhibiting their cooperating teacher from implementing procedures for
solving the problem. In their historic explanations, the students will
describe the major characteristics of transcendentalism, existentialism,
idealism, and realism, and explain how each of these philosophical
positions contributed to the structure and organization of school
districts, classrooms, and curricula since the early 1900's in the