Importance of Using Behavioral Objectives In Nursing Education

Nurses Educator 2

Behavioral Objectives and Importance In Nursing Education

The Importance of Using Behavioral Objectives In Nursing Education,Advantages of Major Clear Objectives,Objectives Not Commonly Written,Writing Behavioral Objectives and Goals In Nursing Education.

The Importance of Using Behavioral Objectives In Nursing Education

    The following key points justify the need for writing behavioral objectives (Ferguson, 1998; Krau, 2011; Morrison et al., 2010; Phillips & Phillips, 2010). The careful construction of well-written objectives:

  • Helps to keep educators' thinking on target and learner centered.
  • Communicates to learners and healthcare team members what is planned for teaching and learning Helps learners understand what is expected of them so they can keep track of their progress. Forces the educator to select and organize educational materials so they do not get lost in the content and forget the learner's role in the process.
  • Encourages educators to evaluate their own motives for teaching.
  • Tailors teaching to the learner's unique needs. Creates guideposts for teacher evaluation and documentation of success or failure. Focuses attention on what the learner will come away with once the teaching learning process is completed, not on what is taught. Orients teacher and learner to the end results of the educational process
  • Makes it easier for the learner to visualize performing the required skills. 

Advantages of Major Clear Objectives 

Robert Mager (1997) points out three other major advantages in writing clear objectives:

1. They provide the solid foundation for the selection or design of instructional content, methods, and materials.

2. They provide learners with ways to organize their efforts to achieve their goals. 

3. They help determine whether an objective has, in fact, been met.

    As Mager (1997) asks, “If you don't know where you're going, how will you know which road to take to get there?” (p. 14). For example, mechanics do not select repair tools until they know what has to be fixed, surgeons do not choose instruments until they know which operation is to be performed, and builders do not buy construction materials before drafting a blueprint. 

    Likewise, teachers should never prepare instructional materials or content until they know the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn. Thus, after a nurse educator has identified the needs of an individual learner or group of learners, it is important that the educator clearly state the behavioral objectives to be achieved as well as intended results of instruction (goal) even before proceeding with any other step of the educational process.

Objectives Not Commonly Written

    The following questions, summarized by Haggard (1989) that are still relevant today, will arise if objectives are not consistently written:

How will anyone else know which objectives have been set?

How will the educator evaluate and document success or failure? How will learners keep track of their progress? 

    Developing behavioral objectives not only helps educators explore their own knowledge, values, and beliefs about teaching and learning but also encourages them to examine the experiences, values, motivations, and knowledge of the learner. 

    The writing of objectives is not merely a mechanical task but rather a synthesizing process. Establishing objectives and goals is considered by many educators to be the initial, most important consideration in the teaching and learning experience (Haggard, 1989; Mager, 1997).

Writing Behavioral Objectives and Goals In Nursing Education

    Well written behavioral objectives give learners very clear statements about what is expected of them. They also assist teachers in being able to measure learner progress toward achieving the objectives. Over the years, Robert Mager's (1997) approach to writing behavioral objectives has become widely accepted among educators. 

    His message to them is that for objectives to be meaningful, they must precisely, clearly, and very specifically communicate the teacher's instructional intent (Arends, 2015). According to Mager (1997), the format for writing concise and useful behavioral objectives includes the following three important characteristics:

1.Performance: Describes what the learner is expected to be able to do to demonstrate the kinds of behaviors the teacher will accept as evidence that objectives have been achieved. Activities performed by the learner may be observable and quite visible, such as being able to write or list something, whereas other activities may not be as visible, such as being able to identify or recall something

2. Condition: Describes the situations under which the behavior will be observed or the performance will be expected to occur.

3. Criterion: Describes how well, with what accuracy, or within what time frame the learner must be able to perform the behavior so as to be considered competent. 

These three characteristics translate into the following key questions: 

(1) What should the learner be able to do? 

(2) Under which conditions should the learner be able to do it? 

(3) How well must the learner be able to do it? 

A fourth component must also be included that describes the “who” to guarantee that the behavioral objective is indeed learner centered.

Thus, behavioral objectives are statements that communicate who will do what under which conditions and how well, how much, or when (Cummings, 1994). 

    An easy way to remember the four elements that should be in a behavioral objective is to follow the ABCD rule proposed by Smaldino, Lowther, and Russell (2012):

A-audience (who)

B-behavior (what)

C-condition (under which circumstance)

D-degree (how well, to what extent, within what time frame)

    For example, the following behavioral objective includes these four elements: “After a 20-minute teaching session on relaxation techniques (C-condition), Mrs. Smith (A-audience) will be able to identify (B-behavior) three distinct techniques for lowering her stress level (D-degree).”

    When writing behavioral objectives using the format suggested by Mager (1997), the recommendation is to use precise action words or verbs as labels that are open to few interpretations when describing learner performance.

    An objective is considered most useful when it clearly states what a learner must demonstrate for mastery in a knowledge, attitude, or skill area. A performance verb describes what the learner is expected to do. A performance may be visible or audible. For example, the learner is able to list, to write, to state, or to walk. 

    These performances are directly observable. A performance also may be invisible. For example, the learner is able to identify, to solve, to recall, or to recognize. Any performance, whether it is visible/audible or invisible, described by a “doing” word is measurable. If a word is used to describe something a learner can be, then it is not a doing word but rather a being word. 

    Examples of being words, known also as abstractions, include to under-stand, to know, to enjoy, and to appreciate (Mager, 1997). Understanding, knowing, enjoying, and appreciating are considered abstract states of being that cannot be directly measured but merely inferred from performances. Therefore, verbs that signify an internal state of thinking, feeling, or believing should be avoided because they are difficult to measure or observe.

    It is impossible to identify all behavioral terms that might potentially be used in objective writing. The important thing to remember in selecting verbs to describe performance is that they must be specific, observable or measurable, and action oriented. As stated by Anderson et al. (2001), if the teacher can describe the behavior to be achieved, it will be easily recognized when learning has occurred.

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