In this lesson, we’ll define the term ‘instructional objectives’ and discuss their role in the assessment process. In addition, we’ll differentiate between formative and summative assessments.
Let’s Talk About Objectives
Many teachers, especially those who are just starting out, loathe the idea of writing objectives. It’s just not something that comes naturally to a lot of us.
However, from the moment we walked into our very first university-level education class, we were bombarded with the idea that instructional objectives, also called learning objectives or behavioral objectives, were of the utmost importance.And to a large degree, this is true.Instructional objectives, which must always be measurable and observable, serve several functions. First, they improve communication between:
- Our students and us
- The students’ parents and us
- The school administration and us
This is because they state, categorically, what a student will be able to do at the end of a particular lesson or unit. Second, they help us to choose appropriate learning activities and teaching materials.
We would be hard-pressed to know which types of resources to use if we didn’t have some idea of what our students should be expected to do at the end. Finally, they drive the assessment process. Yes, you read that correctly. They literally drive the entire assessment process.
Without objectives, we would have absolutely no idea what to test our students on, much less what should be asked on the test.
Objectives and Assessment
As you probably already know, an assessment is some type of activity where a student demonstrates what he or she has learned in a lesson or unit. This assessment doesn’t necessarily have to be a written test.
If you were teaching physical education students to serve a tennis ball, you probably wouldn’t want to give them a written test on the process. Instead, you would have them demonstrate the serving process.Now, getting back to the earlier statement that objectives drive the assessment, think about this in two ways.
First, a student should never be assessed on something that is not made explicit in the instructional objectives at the beginning of a unit. You probably already know that. Second, assessments should be formulated immediately after the instructional objectives have been written. Too often, teachers write their objectives, teach the material, and then develop the assessment. While that seems perfectly logical, it is actually backwards.
Remember, the objectives drive the assessment – so, doesn’t it make more sense to formulate them together and then go back and choose your learning activities and teaching materials? If you do it this way, you will never have to worry about whether or not you are testing students on miscellaneous or extraneous items, rather than on stated objectives!
Formative and Summative Assessments
There are two types of assessments. The type you are probably most familiar with is the summative assessment, which is the test given at the end of a unit. The test counts for a grade, and the grade is entered in the grade book. It is the final accounting of what your students have learned. The formative assessment, on the other hand, is a bit different.
It is administered during the course of the unit – often more than once – and lets you know if your students are, in fact, learning what you are in the process of teaching. These informal assessments may or may not count, and can let you know in mid-stream if you need to slow down, back up, or keep going.No matter which type of assessment you are using, the function of the instructional objectives is still the same. If you have five objectives for an upcoming unit, for example, one might be ‘The student will demonstrate the proper way to serve a tennis ball,’ you may use formative assessments to check on each of the objectives, or maybe two or three objectives at a time. Then, at the end, your summative assessment will cover all five.
Either way, both types of assessments cover only the stated objectives and nothing extraneous. Remember: the objectives drive the assessment!
An instructional objective is an explicit statement of what the learner will be able to do after instruction, and it must always be measurable and observable. Objectives are very closely related to assessments because students should only be assessed on the stated objectives of a lesson or unit.
Assessments are developed after an objective is created.There are two types of assessments: formative and summative. Both are important for teachers because they tell you, in no uncertain terms, which objectives your students have mastered. And remember, an assessment can be virtually any type of activity that allows students to show you what they have learned!