A literature review of Mager (1984), Preparing instructional objectives.

Author: Cheryl Cottle
Date: 8/2/96

© copyright, 1996


This paper examines the use of objectives in the design and implementation of a delivery system. The performance objectives model defined by Mager (1984) is used as the paradigm to definite performance objectives in an instructional program. Mager (1984) objective paradigm includes the following characteristics, performance, conditions and criterion. These three characteristics of an objectives communicate the intended performance clearly enough to preclude misinterpretation (Mager, 1984).


Objectives are useful tools in the design, implementation and evaluation of an instructional program. They are useful in pointing to the content and procedures that will lead to useful instruction, in helping to manage the instructional process itself, and in helping to prepare the means of finding out whether the instruction is successful (Mager, 1984). Further, an objective communicates an intended instructional result to the readers, and is useful to the extent that it conveys to others a picture of what a successful learner will be able to do that is identical to the picture the objective writer has in mind and which allows us to make the largest number of decisions relevant to its achievement and measurement (Mager, 1984). Mager (1984) posits that a meaningful stated objective is one that succeeds in communicating the designer's intent; the best statement is the one that excludes the greatest number of possible meanings other than the intent. To convey the exact intent of the instructional package, Mager (1984) recommends that the following format should be used. To make an objective communicate an intent, three characteristics are included. The characteristics identified by Mager (1984) answers the questions: (1) What should the learner be able to do? (2) Under what conditions do you want the learner to be able to do it? (3) How well must it be done? The characteristics of each aspect of Mager, (1987) model of an objective is elaborated on, below.

Performance: An objective always says what a learner is expected to be able to do; the objective sometimes describes the product or result of the doing.

Conditions: An objective always describes the important conditions (if any) under which the performance is to occur.

Criteria: Whatever possible, an objective describes the criterion of acceptable performance by describing how well the learner must perform in order to be considered acceptable (Mager, 1984).

In sum, objectives are clear and communicate what the designer want to say about the instructional intents are (Mager, 1984).


In defining objectives to facilitate an instructional program, other design criteria are taken into consideration. They include, the content of the instruction, the behavioural objective of the instructional program, level of instruction, the entry level behaviour of learners, and other characteristics of the learner.


The formulation of objectives are dependent on the content of the instruction. If, for example the content include informational material to be learnt, or if it is strictly based on skills development or if it is a combination of both, the method of instruction will vary. It will include a delivery system that is based on instructor-led instruction or programme instruction, simulation, modeling or role play and or instructor-led instruction or programme instruction and roleplay, modeling or simulation consecutively. In any of the case scenario identified, the objectives can be different. In the design of an instructional program, the strategies and techniques are identified during the design phase of the instruction, and in order to do so it is important to be able to identify the objective to be achieved. The objectives also bear a close correlation to the behavioural objective; the success of the behavioural objective is measured by the objectives; what the learner is able to do or achieve after the training. To ensure that the behavioral goal is achieved, the success or failure of the objectives are used. Objectives are used to facilitate any revision process that may have to be implemented to redesign the program to meet its intended goal. The level of instruction, and age of the target audience also impinge on the objectives. However, in any design program these two indices should always be included as well as other characteristic of learners to ensure that the instruction is design to meet a specific audience with the specific background. The objectives further help to validate and make reliable the instructional material and testing procedure that is delivered.

REFERENCE: Mager, Robert F. (1984). Preparing Instructional Objectives. California: David S. Lake Publishers.