How to Write Behavioral Objectives

Behavioral objectives should have at least three components.

A behavioral objective, also known as a learning objective and educational objective, is a tool that teachers use to let students know at the beginning of a course or lesson what is expected of them. Behavioral objectives that are written for students should have a minimum of three components: an explanation of what's expected from them, a performance criteria and an explanation of what constitutes an acceptable amount of knowledge of what was taught during the course or lesson.

Outline what's expected from the students. The objective should plainly spell out what students should be able to do by the end of the course or lesson, as well as the stipulations under which the class or course is given. For example, a common phrasing used in outlining conditions of performance are "The student will be able to ..." and "The student will independently ..."

Create an acceptable performance criteria. The objective should outline performance standards relating to the accuracy, quality and speed of learning what's taught. For example, an objective could be that a student be able to spell a group of words within a set amount of time, or that when given a list of words and a time limit the student should be able to underline all the verbs on the list.

Explain what the student should know after the conclusion of the course or lesson. The objective should list specific, measurable goals, such as being able to describe something, to be able to make a list, to define a term or to explain something. The objective should not include phrasing that relates to goals that can't be accurately measured, like "to know" or "to learn."

  • Writing lesson plans with behavioral objectives in mind helps the instructor focus on the intended outcome of the lesson and clearly communicate the information to the students.

Mark Nero has been a professional journalist since 1995 and has written for numerous publications within and outside the U.S. His work has appeared in "The Boston Globe," "San Diego Union-Tribune" and "Los Angeles Daily News" among others. Nero studied communications at San Diego State University.