Setting solid behavioral objectives is essential for coordinating a group, regardless of its purpose. Whether you are a project manager and you need to point out to your employees what you want them to do or a teacher who is assigning tasks for the class, the manner in which you describe the goals you expect to be completed will directly affect how they will be carried out.
Let us give you a few essential tips and tricks about how to communicate your demands to others. You will be able to improve the overall performance of your group and we guarantee that you will feel the difference immediately.
What are Behavioral Objectives?
The performance of a group is all too often set back because the leader is unable to make correct demands from his team. He most likely knows what the objectives are and even how to implement them, but he fails to transmit them to the team because he finds these notions to be obvious.
The solution to this common error is understanding the importance of setting the correct behavioral objectives. And in order to do so, it is crucial to start with the basics.
Behavioral Objectives Definition
Behavioral Objectives are defined as instructional design processes meant to specify an expected outcome for an certain unit. According to Robert Mager’s “Preparing Instructional objectives”, they include three fundamental parts: the expected performance, the performance conditions and the performance criteria.
The part is extremely important because it describes what the student or employee is expected to do once the objective is achieved. It will serve not only as a guide but as a list of the new abilities that the student or employee will gain at the end of the process.
This part describes the key circumstances under which the performance is expected to take place. As such, it needs to provide a generous amount of details regarding what the student or employee should or should not do in order to meet the goals set by the leader.
The criteria describe the level of acceptance for success. It is meant to describe the expected amount of time that the student or employee has to reach the objective or the accuracy of the performance he is supposed to have in the end.
Behavioral Objectives Examples
The best possible analogy for a behavioral objective is the table of contents from a book. Those who are not skilled in the subject of the book cannot fully understand in detail what its structure refers to. They might have a vague idea about it, but they are unable to visualize the process of getting there.
However, if this process is described by pointing out what the book will teach the reader to do, the expected time frame that he will learn these new skills in, as well as the tools he will need to employ in order to gain them, he might get a much better idea about how he can use the book.
It is basically beginning to perform a task with the endpoint in mind, as this will provide purpose. If this is accompanied by some key guidelines, then the person performing the task will know exactly what he has to do and how to assess whether or not he has completed it.
But let’s get to specific behavioral objective examples. We will start with a poorly written objective: “The student will know how to make a paper airplane”. It is unclear what the word “know” refers to exactly, what the paper airplane is supposed to look like and what the student is allowed or not to use in the process.
If we state the same objective by saying “The student will be able to perform all the five steps of making a paper airplane without looking at the manual”, the situation is entirely different. Here’s why:
- We have included Performance: It is clear that the student is expected to perform something, not to describe, not to draw, but to perform the steps of building a paper airplane.
- We have included the Conditions: It is perfectly clear that the student will not be allowed to use a manual for building the paper airplane.
- We have included the Criteria: It is clear that the student is expected to perform all the 5 distinct steps of building a paper airplane.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Behavioral Objectives
Any leader can improve his skills by stating the correct behavioral objectives. We have prepared a list of the most important do’s and don’ts of writing them. Take a look and try to figure out what you have been doing differently all this time!
1. DO use verbs that are action oriented when describing the performance.
This is extremely important because the student or employee needs to understand as clearly as possible what he is expected to do. Here are a few examples, so that you understand exactly what to use:
- Verbs that assess understanding: name, explain, illustrate, select, identify, etc.
- Verbs that assess the applicability of the goal: perform, construct, explain, reproduce, show, list, etc.
- Verbs that assess the evaluation of the goal: determine, identify, choose, validate, etc.
- Verbs that describe the level of synthesis that the student or employee is expected to have: select, compare, contrast, restate, summarize, etc.
2. DO NOT use verbs that are vague or that cannot be measured.
These verbs will lead to confusing objectives because the performance will not be listed in a manner that the student or employee can understand. Here is a list of sample verbs that you should avoid using at all costs. Whenever you feel tempted to use one of these, try to think of a synonym that is clearer and that can be measured easily.
- KNOW, UNDERSTAND, THINK, ENJOY, comprehend, be familiar with, appreciate, etc.
3. DO formulate objectives according to your audience.
It is crucial that the leader knows his team extremely well. When formulating the objective, he should use words that they can relate to. The behavioral objectives need to be personalized to the audience, rather than the leader.
4. DO use action verbs that the student or employee can relate to.
This is also extremely important so that the student or employee knows exactly what he has to do. The leader must try to think like the team in order to formulate solid behavioral objectives. He must use verbs that are included in the required activity of the team.
5. DO NOT assume that certain key details are obvious.
While some aspects might appear obvious to the leader, these might not be the case for the rest of the team. This is why being clear is absolutely crucial to the performance of the objective. When all the details are not mentioned, it gives way to confusion. This could render the team members unable to achieve the objective set by the leader.
6. DO NOT use more than one action verb per objective.
This will help the team visualize the performance they are expected to perform in a very clear way. If more than one action verb is listed, it might not relate directly to the conditions and the criteria. This also leads to confusion and gives way to mistakes along the process.
7. DO formulate two clear objectives instead of a misleading one.
Instead of formulating a long objective that includes two or more action verbs, break it into smaller ones that are unambiguous. Create one objective for every verb you need to use and state the criteria and the conditions related to that action verb in a clear manner.
8. DO NOT use corporate language.
Clarity should be the aim of the leader, rather than the proper social etiquette. Therefore, the words included in the objectives should be unambiguous, rather than formal.
9. DO make sure the limits are set correctly.
When setting an objective, the accuracy, and the time frame are of great importance. The leader needs to make sure that the team can immediately understand how long the assigned task is expected to take, as well as what level of accuracy is required to be.
10. DO focus on the outcome of the task.
This is the ultimate goal that the leader is supposed to bear in mind when formulating behavioral objectives for his team. Before presenting them to the team, he needs to be sure that the cumulated achievement of the objectives will lead to the completion of the task that the team was assigned.
We hope we have managed to make you curious about the accuracy of the objectives you have set for your team up to this point. Are any of these tips new for you? Keep them in mind the next time you have to formulate behavioral objectives. Then try to analyze the effects to see if there are any improvements. Good luck!