A behavioral objective is a clear, specific, and measurable statement of what a learner is expected to achieve at the end of a unit of work.
It describes the desired outcome in terms of the learner’s behavior, specifying the knowledge, skills, or attitudes that the learner should acquire.
When writing a curriculum, educators need to state the behavioral objectives as a way to outline the goal behaviors that will demonstrate successful completion of the unit of work.
Why Behavioral Objectives?
Behavioral objectives are important because they:
- Provide a clear focus for instruction: This can help educators to create lesson plans and scenarios that guide students toward the objective.
- Help learners understand what is expected of them: Explicitly stating the behavioral objectives for the students can help orient them to the task and get a good understanding of where they’re headed.
- Create benchmarks: Behavioral objectives can enable educators and students to measure their progress toward the objective (in the form of formative assessment) and also assess when the learning objectives have been achieved (in the form of summative assessment).
How to Write Behavioral Objectives
There are multiple frameworks for writing behavioral objectives. The two most common are Bloom’s Taxonomy and the SOLO Taxonomy.
1. Use Verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy
Here are some examples of each level of the taxonomy:
|Bloom’s Taxonomy Level||Action Verbs|
|1. Remembering||Define, Describe, Identify, List, Label, Memorize, Name, Outline, Recall, Recognize, Reproduce, State, Match, Repeat|
|2. Understanding||Classify, Compare, Contrast, Demonstrate, Discuss, Explain, Express, Illustrate, Indicate, Interpret, Paraphrase, Predict, Relate, Report, Restate, Review, Summarize, Translate, Associate, Distinguish, Extend, Generalize, Infer, Represent, Sort|
|3. Applying||Apply, Choose, Compute, Construct, Dramatize, Employ, Illustrate, Interpret, Manipulate, Modify, Operate, Practice, Schedule, Sketch, Solve, Use, Demonstrate, Discover, Implement, Prepare, Produce, Relate, Show, Transfer, Utilize|
|4. Analyzing||Analyze, Appraise, Break down, Categorize, Compare, Contrast, Criticize, Distinguish, Examine, Experiment, Identify, Infer, Inspect, Motivate, Question, Test, Detect, Diagram, Discriminate, Dissect, Estimate, Evaluate, Explain, Explore, Separate|
|5. Evaluating||Appraise, Argue, Assess, Attach, Choose, Compare, Conclude, Contrast, Criticize, Debate, Decide, Defend, Estimate, Evaluate, Explain, Interpret, Judge, Justify, Measure, Rank, Rate, Recommend, Review, Select, Support, Validate|
|6. Creating||Arrange, Assemble, Collect, Compose, Construct, Create, Design, Develop, Formulate, Generate, Invent, Make, Organize, Plan, Prepare, Produce, Propose, Set up, Synthesize, Write, Combine, Compile, Conceive, Construct, Create, Design, Devise, Initiate, Integrate, Rearrange|
Based on these verbs, we could create learning objectives stratified by grade.
For example, we may have this as the core learning objective:
“Students will explore themes and symbolism in a given literary text”, we can
The behavioral objectives that will determine a student’s grade may be stratified based on Bloom’s taxonomy:
|A (Evaluation Skill)||The student will be able to critically assess the effectiveness of themes and symbolism in the literary text and justify their interpretations and opinions with strong evidence from the text.||Critically assess, justify|
|B (Analysis Skill)||The student will be able to examine themes and symbolism in the literary text, identifying their relationships and implications, and distinguish between various literary elements and techniques used by the author.||Identify relationships and implications, distinguish between|
|C (Application Skill)||The student will be able to identify themes and symbolism in the literary text, explain their relevance to the overall message, and apply knowledge of literary elements and techniques to support their interpretation of the text.||Apply knowledge, support their interpretation|
|D (Understanding)||The student will be able to recognize basic themes and symbolism present in the literary text and describe the main ideas and events of the text in their own words.||Recognize, describe|
2. Use Biggs’ SOLO Taxonomy
A core limitation of Bloom’s Taxonomy is that it sometimes doesn’t describe observable behaviors but rather skills. The SOLO Taxonomy by John Biggs addresses this concern.
SOLO Taxonomy stands for Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome. This model is designed to provide a framework for describing observable behavioral objectives.
Observable objectives, Biggs argues, are easier to grade because you can see the behavioral objectives you are aiming to assess.
Biggs names the levels of learning complexity (from lowest to highest complexity) prestructural, unistructural, multistructutral, relational, and extended abstract.
(Note: While I won’t go into the meaning of each level of complexity here, you can read my guide on Biggs’s levels of learning complexity here to get a deeper understanding of each level.
|SOLO Taxonomy Level||Action Verbs|
|1. Prestructural||List, Recall, Name, Define, Recognize|
|2. Unistructural||Describe, Explain, Summarize, Illustrate, Paraphrase, Report, Define, Express, Perform, State|
|3. Multistructural||Compare, Contrast, Categorize, Classify, Sequence, Order, Arrange, Combine, Separate, Differentiate|
|4. Relational||Synthesize, Predict, Reflect, Theorize, Deduce, Organize, Create, Construct, Examine, Illustrate, Link, Formulate, Plan, Produce, Solve, Design, Develop, Relate, Connect, Distinguish, Discriminate, Correlate, Elaborate|
|5. Extended abstract||Create, Design, Construct, Invent, Project, Extrapolate, Reconstruct, Reorganize, Transform, Extend, Modify, Propose, Critique, Appraise, Revise, Reevaluate, Conceptualize|
Clearly, there are many overlaps with Bloom’s taxonomy here, but one key takeaway is that the verbs in the SOLO taxonomy tend to describe more observable behaviors rather than simply skills.
Examples of Behavioral Objectives
For Kindergarten Students
- Identify and name the primary colors by selecting the correct color when shown different colored objects (Remembering/Prestructural).
- Describe the weather outside by observing and verbally expressing whether it’s sunny, rainy, cloudy, or snowy (Understanding/Unistructural).
- Count from 1 to 20 using manipulatives, such as counting blocks or fingers (Applying/Multistructural).
- Sort objects into different categories, such as shape or size, by grouping similar items together (Analyzing/Relational).
- Compare the length of two objects by placing them side by side and stating which one is longer or shorter (Analyzing/Multistructural).
For an Applied Behavioral Analysis Intervention
- Identify and recognize different emotions in themselves and others by interpreting facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice (Remembering/Prestructural).
- Describe and practice active listening skills, such as making eye contact, nodding, and asking relevant questions, in a role-play scenario or social skills group (Understanding/Unistructural).
- Apply self-regulation strategies, such as deep breathing, counting, or using a fidget tool, to manage impulsivity and maintain focus during classroom activities (Applying/Multistructural).
- Analyze social situations, anticipating potential challenges and selecting appropriate coping strategies to navigate social interactions and maintain positive peer relationships (Analyzing/Relational).
- Collaborate with peers in group projects or cooperative learning activities, practicing turn-taking, sharing, and effective communication to contribute positively to the group dynamic (Creating/Extended Abstract).
For a High School Chemistry Class
- Explain the concept of chemical bonds and provide examples of ionic, covalent, and metallic bonds in everyday substances (Understanding/Multistructural).
- Calculate the molar mass of a given compound using the periodic table and apply the concept of stoichiometry to solve chemical reaction problems (Applying/Relational).
- Analyze the periodic trends of elements, such as atomic radius, ionization energy, and electronegativity, and predict their properties based on their positions in the periodic table (Analyzing/Relational).
- Design and conduct a laboratory experiment to determine the concentration of an unknown solution using titration and present the results with appropriate calculations and error analysis (Creating/Extended Abstract).
- Evaluate the impact of a specific chemical reaction or process on the environment, such as the production of greenhouse gases or acid rain, and propose possible solutions or alternatives (Evaluating/Extended Abstract).
Behavioral Objectives in Goal Setting (SMART Framework)
Not only do educators and professional trainers need well-defined behavioral objectives, but students do too.
The SMART goals framework is a template for students to help them define behavioral objectives related to their educational or career goals.
There are 5 components.
- Specific: This is a detailed description of the goal. It can also include specifying how the goal will be met.
- Measurable: This is a statement that identifies how the individual will know if they have achieved the goal or not.
- Attainable: Make sure the goal is reasonable given time-constraints and within the individual’s current skill level.
- Relevant: The goal should be relevant to the individual’s education or eventual career path. However, extracurricular goals are also acceptable in the case of overall self-improvement objectives.
- Time-Bound: Identify a specific deadline for when this goal should be met. It should be realistic. When setting goals, it is easy to get overly ambitious.
Example: I will use flash cards to learn 15 new Spanish words each week for the next month.
This example is specific, realistic, measurable, and identifies a time-frame.
For more SMART Goals for students, visit our detailed list of SMART goals.
Behavioral objectives refer to defining specific learning outcomes in terms of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor skills.
Behavioral objectives are used in a variety of contexts, from education to professional development training.
Guidelines for how to construct well-defined objectives suggest that they be specific, measurable, and time-based.
Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives provides a useful framework for how to organize behavioral objectives.
Rubrics offer another template for organizing objectives that also allow students to form a better understanding of grading criteria and improve their performance.
Anderson, L., & Krathwohl, D. A. (2001). Taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.
Bloom, B. S., Engelhart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay Company.
Dawson, P. (2017). Assessment rubrics: Towards clearer and more replicable design, research and practice. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 42(3), 347-360.
Jonsson, A., & Svingby, G. (2007). The use of scoring rubrics: Reliability, validity and educational consequences. Educational Research Review, 2(2), 130–144.
Krathwohl, D. R., Bloom, B. S., & Masia, B. B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives, Book II. Affective domain. New York, NY. David McKay Company, Inc.
Tyler, R. W. (2013). Basic principles of curriculum and instruction. University of Chicago press.
Wu, W. H., Kao, H. Y., Wu, S. H., & Wei, C. W. (2019). Development and evaluation of affective domain using student’s feedback in entrepreneurial Massive Open Online Courses. Frontiers in Psychology, 1109.