Writing the Introduction and the Objectives
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Both the introduction and the objectives of a unit are tools to orient the learners. While the introduction to the unit provides an overview, the objectives specify what the learners are expected to be able to do after reading the unit that they may have been unable to do before. The introduction is a tool to generate interest and motivation in the learner towards reading further. The objectives have a variety of purposes including self-assessment for isolated learners. We will discuss these in this session.
A good introduction contains three components:
- Structural linkages
- Thematic description
All the three components are written in a way to provide the learners an attractive and motivating episode to foster the will to study the unit. The structural linkage component relates to the pre-requisite learning of the present unit by referring to previous learning (in terms of any unit or experience), while the thematic description component explains what is the content of the unit and why is it relevant for the learner to study. It is this relevance part that is highly useful in creating the need and enabling the learner to study the material. The third component of an ideal introduction is guidance to the students on how to tackle the unit, and to explain what is the necessary equipment for studying the unit. It is possible that a geometry box or tape-recorder is required to complete the unit; and it is at this stage that some information should be given to the student to prepare the needed item.
Note: Introduction here is not introduction to the topic or content, rather it is an overview of the unit. Specific topic oriented introduction should be discussed in the later sections.
The objectives are the foundation of any educational transaction. The term is often used synonymously with goals and aims. However, goals and aims are broad statement of intent that gives us some idea about what is about to come (Race, 1989). Aims are un-measurable e.g. ‘the aim is to live long’, while objectives are measurable ‘the objective is to survive 5 years’. Objectives are more focused and precise that helps us to know when we reach / achieve them. Objectives help us to:
- Prepare learning materials that are appropriate to the levels of the knowledge and skills requirements of the learners;
- Provide the learner with a clear understanding of what they will be able to do as a result of studying the unit; and
- Enable the learner to self assess the achievement of the objectives.
In the literature of education and training, objectives are also referred as ‘behavioural objectives’, ‘instructional objectives’, ‘ learning outcomes’, etc. with little variation (Mishra, 2005). In the recent past, the use of the phrase ‘learning outcomes’ is gaining popularity, because of the use of competence standards in the vocational industry and the inadequacy of the ‘behavioural objectives’ that limit objectives within the behaviouristic framework. Well-written learning outcomes are likely to include the following:
- a verb that indicates what the trainee is expected to be able to do at the end of the training;
- a word or words that indicate what or with what the learner is acting; and
- a word or words that indicate the nature (context or standard) of the performance required and evidence that the learning was achieved (Moon, 2002).
This is similar to the three components of objectives:
- Conditions under which the task be performed;
- Performance verbs in unambiguous terms; and
- Standards of the expected performance (Mager, 1990).
Moon (2002) suggests that the use of stem such as “you will be able to” or “you should be able to” in the learning outcomes be replaced by “you are expected to be able to”, as the former are phrases that denote learning happens with more certainty.
Learning is often categorized into three types: cognitive, psychomotor and affective (Hienich et al, 1999). The outcomes of any learning can therefore be observed and assessed in three categories:
- knowledge and intellectual abilities;
- physical action and motor skills; and
- feelings and attitudes.
A group of researchers led by psychologist Benjamin Bloom (1956) further categorized the cognitive domain into six levels (from lower to higher): knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This is often referred to as Bloom’s Taxonomy. In 2001, a team of research led by L.W. Anderson revised the Bloom’s Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002). The original Bloom’s Taxonomy was uni-dimensional with both noun and verb together. For example, in ‘the learner will be able to identify the three major theories of learning’; ‘identify’ is the verb and ‘theories of learning’ is the noun represented in a uni-dimensional framework. In the revised taxonomy, both noun and verb form two separate dimensions – the noun forming knowledge dimension and the verb forming cognitive process dimension. However, knowledge formed the lowest category of the objectives in the cognitive domain in the original taxonomy with other sub-categories. Table 2 gives the structure of the knowledge domain. For the cognitive process dimension, the six categories in the original taxonomy have been retained with changes to label those in their verb form to fit usage in the objectives. The knowledge category has now been renamed as remember; while comprehension is now understand as it is widely accepted as a synonym to comprehension. Application, analysis and evaluation become apply, analyse and evaluate; and synthesis has changed place with evaluation with a new name create. Thus, the new hierarchical structure of the revised taxonomy in the cognitive process domain is: remember, understand, apply, analyse, evaluate and create. Table 3 gives the detailed structure of the cognitive process dimension of the revised taxonomy. Based on the two-dimensions, a multiple grid (Table 4) can be prepared for use in writing learning outcomes / objectives. In order to facilitate appropriate use of verbs in the learning outcomes Tables 5, 6 and 7 give lists of verbs in the cognitive domain, psychomotor domain, and affective domain.
|Knowledge Dimension||Cognitive Process|
While writing objectives, the following suggestions of Race (1989) may be considered:
- Don’t list too many objectives
- Make them personal
- Avoid unnecessary jargon
- Make them as specific as possible
- Relate them to the experience of the learners
- Don’t write too long objectives
- Make them motivating and attractive
- Relate them to assessment.
Research Says Marland & Store (1982) say:
- Objectives have a positive effect in learning:
- When they are distributed with each section of the text;
- When specific objectives require a high level of cognition;
- When students use them to search for relevant content in the material;
- When students are interested in the objectives; and
- When students have a past rewarding experience with objectives.
- Objectives have a negative effect on learning:
- When there is a large number of objectives; and
- When objectives are located all at one place in text.