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Lesson Plans

Objective writing

From: PGStephens
Date: Mon Apr 10 2000 - 16:34:47 PDT

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    I know this approach to rethinking objectives in art will likely raise a few
    eyebrows because it is not the way we were taught in preservice nor is it
    often the way that preservice students are now being taught. Like most of
    you, I was taught that objectives should be measurable. With that directive,
    I made a giant (but erroneous) leap of faith to write objectives that really
    were no more than activities (e.g., the student will create a texture

    It takes a little rethinking to get beyond activities and to encompass
    learning objectives. One way that I try to delineate the difference for my
    graduate students is to say that activities can usually be assessed with a
    simple yes/no check sheet. Learning objectives are broader and need a

    If you have an interest, feel free to read the Discussion Board that Nancy
    Walkup and I maintain with our graduate students. You can access this at then scroll down to "Writing Objectives".

    You can also access
    then scroll down to "Objectives" for a sample of learning objectives and an
    assessment rubric.

    Now, for what it is worth, here are some excerpts from "Bridging the
    Curriculum through Art" that might help with the explanation of
    learning-based objectives as opposed to "activity-based" objectives.

    An objective is measurable and clearly states what it is that students will
    learn. An example of a measurable objective is: Students will respond to
    philosophical questioning with compelling reasons in regard to the strengths
    and weaknesses of an artist's work. (Note that "compelling" provides the
    objective with a suggested range of measurement.)

    Identification of Objectives
    One clear learning objective should be stated for each lesson within a unit
    of study. Learning objectives should be invoked by these two questions:
    1. What is it that you really want students to know?
    2. How will you know that students have learned what you intended?

    In addition, learning objectives should directly relate to what students will
    be expected to learn and how they will demonstrate that understanding. For
    these reasons, it is very important that learning objectives be distinct and
    measurable. Each lesson within a unit of study should have its own distinct
    and measurable objective.

    Distinct means that the learning objective clearly states one idea that will
    be taught. Measurable means that the objective indicates how students will
    demonstrate competency. Here is an example of a distinct and measurable
    learning objective:

    Students will communicate persuasive interpretations about the artwork based
    upon the political ideas of the time.

    This objective is distinct because it isolates what the students will be
    charged with learning through art criticism and history or social studies
    (interpreting artwork based upon the political ideas of the time). The
    objective is measurable because it states how the students will be assessed
    (communicating persuasively). The adjective "persuasive" is necessary;
    otherwise assessment would hinge solely upon students making interpretations
    without regard to how thoroughly an interpretation is supported by facts.

    A word of caution: often activities are inadvertently labeled as learning
    objectives. Here are two examples of activities masquerading as learning
    1. Students will create a diorama about art and ecology.
    2. Students will write a critical review.

    If the activity within a lesson is to create a diorama or write a review, the
    learning objectives would be better stated like this:

    1. Students will competently demonstrate an understanding of how artists
    identify and address ecological issues.
    2. Students will effectively describe and analyze a masterwork.
    These are distinct and measurable objectives that lead to the activities of
    diorama and critical review.

    In writing a unit of study, each lesson should have its own objective. Each
    objective should link (align) to each of the other objectives within the
    unit. All objectives should support the common theme and meaningful
    exploration of art.


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