Setting a Learning Goal

Behavioral objectives are a driving force of curriculum. When a classroom teacher says, “Class, today we are going to learn about polynomials”, the teacher has just stated the objective for the class. In the lesson plan, it probably says something to the effect of: After this lesson, the student will be able to identify a polynomial. You see this in online tutorials, too. Many begin with, “In this tutorial, you will learn how to [insert bullet points].” Again, it gives the student an idea of why they’re giving up their valuable time to this resource.

Personally, I’m not a fan of stating behavioral objectives outright. You see this in the Dead Bunny videos. The title tells you the topic, but if you just jump into the video, you’ll find a problem best solved through the skill that will be covered in the video. I assume my viewers will be smart enough to realize that during the video, they will be given the knowledge they need to be able to solve that problem. I’m the same way in my tutoring when the lesson isn’t overly dependent on the vocabulary. It’s a good way to discover what the student already knows about the topic.

A behavioral objective is just that: a statement about what the learner will be able to do, how their behavior will be changed, by the time the teacher is done with them for that learning session. Teacher candidates spend countless hours (or maybe that was just the program I went through) learning how to craft these statement to make the best learning chunks they can. And then we learn how to string them together into units and into curriculum. They’re really useful, actually.

Autodidacts don’t realize it, but every time they identify a new skill they want to learn, they create their own behavioral objectives. For example, I recently realized I needed to learn how to mix and master audio files to complete a project, so I set out a task in my to-do list: Before I reach that stage in this project, I will find and read/view resources on how to mix and master my own audio files.

I set out what I needed to learn (to mix and master audio files), how I expected to learn it (find and read/view resources, accounting for books, articles, and videos), and a deadline (before I reach the point in my current audio project where I will need to be able to mix and master the file). Ideally, these would all be very specific, but I’m doing a voiceover project completely on my own that I’ve never done completely on my own before, so I don’t actually know yet how long it’s going to take to get to the point where I will need to know how to mix and master. (I’m also making note of the time I spend working on it so I’ll know better for the future how to allocate my time.)

By laying out these specific objectives, teachers, curriculum designers, and autodidacts can target exactly what to learn and how to do it, and can use that to build larger, better focused, learning objectives.

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