Formal Ability-Based Objectives
most detailed and descriptive form for writing
learning objectives. They provide a clear
indication of what the students is expected to
learn and do as a result of the instruction,
under what conditions the learned ability is to
be done, and the criteria for evaluating
Terminal objectives, or major learning outcomes,
are frequently written as formal objectives.
There are four components of a formal objective:
1) Conditions under which the student is expected to perform.
Here are some examples of conditions:
As a team member
Using a specific tool or piece of equipment
Given a case study
2) Who will reach these objectives.
The Who is the student. For example:
a Chemistry student
a Modern Language student
a History major
3) What ability (the ability statement) the student will be able to
Calculate the interest on a multi-year loan
Write a research paper on the history of art during the Roman era
Conduct a presentation using a variety of presentation media.
4) The acceptable performance.
The acceptable performance determines the expected performance level.
100% or without error
Four out of five
Within 80% accuracy
Two Examples of Formal Ability-Based Objectives
(1) Using cases studies and working in teams, (2) the management student (3)
will be able to demonstrate, through role playing, how problems can be solved
using human relations skills. (4) To be acceptable all five HR skills studied in
this course must be used.
This sample objective is numbered to show the four components:
The conditions (1) are using case studies and working in
The who (2) is the management student.
The what (3) is demonstrate how problems can be solved using human
The acceptable performance (4) is all five human relations skills
students must be used.
(1) Working in teams and using the appropriate behavior characteristics
(2)the management student (3) will be able to DESCRIBE how individuals with high
needs for recognition, belonging opportunity and security can be motivated.(4)
To be acceptable the description must contain at least two ways in which each
need can be satisfied.
The conditions (1) are working in teams and using appropriate
The who (2) is the management student.
The what (3) is describe ways to motivate individuals with high
recognition, belonging, opportunity and security needs.
performance (4) indicates that the description must include at least two
ways to meet the needs.
Guide for Writing Ability-Based Objectives
This guide makes it easy to record essential aspects of a formal ability-based
objective. Use it until you become comfortable identifying each component.
use a word processor
Use at least 3 different media
The last column -- priority -- will help in designing the program of study
around the most important elements.
Components of Informal Ability-Based Objectives
are certainly less exacting than formal
objectives in that they may only describe what
the student is expected to do as proof of
learning. Without the conditions (that are
optional) or the criteria for acceptable level
of performance, they do not provide the most
complete guidance or information to the student
or the teacher.
Supporting or enabling objectives are frequently
written in an informal format.
Informal objectives require only two components from the
formal objective statements -- the who and what! The conditions of performance element is optional.
1. Conditions (optional)
3. What ability
Two Examples of Informal Ability-Based Objectives
NOTE: The objectives for all the lessons in these tutorials are written
as informal objectives. They contain the optional component of conditions (1),
the who (2) and the what (3). The acceptable level of performance is not
After the completion of this session, (2) the participant:
will be able to:
(1) Given background information,
(3) WRITE the two important questions an
instructor should ask in designing instruction
(1) From memory,
(3) LIST the components of an ability-based
Again numbers have been used to show the different components.
(1) Condition--given a familiar topic
(2) Who-the participant
(3) What ability--DESCRIBE the concept of program mapping
Remember -- these are the two most important questions that should be asked when
What will my students learn as a result of taking my courses?
How will I know they have learned?
These questions determine what is to be taught, and what is to be assigned and
What will my students learn?
To answer this question, first the ability statement is created. Then the
ability statement serves as the root for writing the ability-based, formal
objective that includes: conditions, who, what ability and acceptable
© 2005 Towson University ◦ Gloria P. Holland, Ed.D.
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