The IDEAL: Writing Glamorous Objectives vs. Writing Effective Objectives!

Icon of section IDEAL (Instructional Designer's Evolution through Analytical Learning)- Creative Agni ezine.

This is something that will continue to trouble me until my last day on dear Mother Earth’s bossom.

Why do we glam them up? Why is it that we try to tediously work our fantastic vocabulary into  writing statements that would make people wonder whether instructional design really is about simplifying stuff?

I think that the reason isn’t that we are vain, or even that we don’t want to make our content understandable. Not all of us are vain, and most of us aren’t sadists. Perhaps the reason lies elsewhere. Perhaps, it lies in the fact that most of us can’t understand what simple is.

For an instructional designer, “simple” doesn’t mean “skeletal” or “barebones” – what it means for her or him is – what best suits the audience, or which, in other words, is EFFECTIVE.

We must also realize that “effectiveness” of content doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it exists in view of an audience. Always in view of an audience.  When we write objectives, we have multiple audiences – we’ve got our reviewers, we’ve got the content designers who’d design a course around the objectives (we ourselves could design content around the objectives that we write, but there could be others, too,) and most importantly, there’s the final audience – the consumer of the content.

Thus, while a glamorous objective is one that looks well-fed and rotund, an effective objective is one that answers the following:

What skill will the learner acquire, and to which level will the learner build the skill? (Refer the taxonomies.)

and sometimes, your objective should also answer questions like, what criteria would be used to check the capability acquired by the learner and what sort of conditions will be required for the learner to use the skill to the desired level?

Yes, I am just speaking about Robert Mager’s Performance-Condition(s)-Criterion(a) model, but I want to draw your attention to the fact that depending upon the instructional requirement, you can decide to stay with the Performance bit. Then again, I’ve seen some of us going for the overkill, by making their objectives read something like:

After completing this training, the learner should be able to <do this> by <doing this.>


After completing this course, the learner should be able to do this, do this, do this, do this…, in order to do this.

Well…do you see how objectives and sub-objectives, and a bit of strategy formulation, all gets rolled into one big, bulging holdall that doesn’t do anyone any good.

So, keep it simple.

After completing this training, the learner should be able to <do this.>

Write in the right verb (refer to the corresponding taxonomy – for instance, Bloom’s Taxonomy if you are dealing with the Cognitive Domain,) and complete the statement. If you are dealing with stuff that needs more objectivity (math, science, medicine, engineering…and so on,) go ahead with the two Cs too – but keep them simple yet.