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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
http://matrix.ntieva.unt.edu/discus/ then scroll down to "Writing Objectives".
You can also access http://www.sova.unt.edu/ntieva/artcurr/ecology/index.htm
then scroll down to "Objectives" for a sample of learning objectives and an
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
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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