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Module A ButtonTopic A4.2: Learning Objectives

The ABCD Model for Writing Objectives
Objectives written with this model include four distinct components:

Audience a description of the learners for whom the instruction is intended.

Behavior a description of the actions that will demonstrate the skill or learning.

Condition a description of the equipment or tools that may or may not be used by the learner.

Degree a description of the standards or criteria at which the learner demonstrates mastery.

The objective need not be written in this order (ABCD), but it should contain all these elements.The exception to this rule is where objectives are written in two levels. It would be redundant to identify the audience (provided it is unchanging) in each level, so often this information is implied in the second level after it is expressed in the first. Let us examine each of the components in more detail:

Describe the intended learner or end user of the instruction. Often the audience is identified only in the first level of objective (the terminal objective or goal) because of redundancy. It is then implied throughout the remainder of the objectives for that block of instruction.

Example: The Biology 101 student.
Example: The English Second Language student.
Example: The ABC company manager attending this seminar.


Describes expected learner capability. Must be observable and measurable (you will define the measurement elsewhere in the goal) The "behavior" can include demonstration of knowledge or skills in any of the domains of learning: cognitive, psychomotor, affective, or interpersonal.

Example: should be able to write a report.
Example: should be able to describe the steps.


Equipment or tools that may (or may not) be utilized in completion of the behavior. Environmental conditions may also be included.

Example: given an oxygen wrench, regulator and a tank with oxygen.
Example: given the complete works of William Shakespeare.
Example: given a group of Spanish verbs to select from.


States the standard for acceptable performance (time, accuracy, proportion, quality, etc.)

Example: without error.
Example: 9 out of 10 times.
Example: within 60 seconds.


An effective objective is both observable and measurable. Using words like understand and learn in writing objectives is generally not acceptable, because they're difficult to measure. And if you hesitate at the opening statement, worried if you're allowed to say the student will be able to, or shall be able to, or should be able to, the general rule is that there is no rule. If you're concerned about liability in making definitive statements like "students will be able," then state the objective with the verb should or shall. To download a Microsoft Word document listing of action verbs useful in composing objectives, click here.


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