Objectives play a fundamental role in designing appropriate instruction. Objectives enable instructors to identify what students should know at the conclusion of an instructional activity, organize instructional activities and materials, determine assessment methods of student performance, and create a level of accountability for student performance.

To successfully address these four components, the course writer or instructor must write the objectives in a measurable (but not overly prescriptive) manner. The best objectives, especially for online courses, provide enough information to measure student outcomes while also offering instructors sufficient freedom to adjust assessment methods according to the student population and the instructor’s strengths. Measurable student objectives are instructional objectives, which Mager (1997, p. 3) defined as “a collection of words and/or pictures and diagrams intended to let others know what you intend for your students to achieve.” In other words, instructional objectives articulate what you consider satisfactory student performance.

How to Write Measurable Objectives

Refer to the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy for measurable verbs.

The Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy classifies measurable verbs into hierarchical levels. Renowned educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom developed the original Bloom’s Taxonomy in 1956. In 2001, a revised version was published, which clarified verb usage and reordered the top two levels. The Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy chart, shown below, provides a small sample of the classification system:

Remembering Understanding Applying Analyzing Evaluating Creating
 Define Classify Apply Compare Argue Construct
Identify Indicate Examine Contrast Critique Design
List Match Generalize Differentiate Defend Formulate
State Select Illustrate Discriminate Evaluate Hypothesize
Reproduce Summarize Record Examine Judge Plan

Build upon existing objectives.

If you are writing objectives for a course syllabus, first review the objectives for the program to which the syllabus belongs. Likewise, if you are writing objectives for a lesson, first review the objectives for the course. In either case, rewrite any objectives that do not meet the criteria of an instructional objective. Doing so enables you to create more appropriate instructional objectives.

Break down larger or higher-order objectives into smaller objectives.

Break down any existing objectives that have a large scope or require higher-order thinking skills (e.g., hypothesizing) into smaller, more manageable subobjectives. Breaking the objectives down helps you organize and group information for students; it also facilitates smooth content development. The following example illustrates the process of breaking down objectives:

Objective: Compare and contrast the constructivist view of education with the behaviorist view of education.


  • Define constructivism and behaviorism.
  • Trace the development of constructivism and behaviorism philosophies.
  • Identify key constructivist theorists and behaviorist theorists.
  • Describe the constructivist and behaviorist approaches to education.


Mager, R. F. (1997). Preparing instructional objectives: A critical tool in the development of effective instruction. Atlanta, GA: Center for Effective Performance.