Behavioral Objectives: Some Perspective, Please!


  • Carolyn B. Attridge
  • Helen Niskala


The behavioral (instructional, educational) objective approach to curriculum and instruction is both rational and, in theory at least, simple and straightforward. Essentially this approach advocates the precise specification of the desired goals of an educational program, course, unit or class, etc. in the form of unambiguously defined, observable and measurable, terminal learner behaviors. These previously delineated goals are then used to guide the selection and organization of content and learning experiences. They also serve as criteria by which students are evaluated and the effectiveness of the curriculum can thereby be assessed (Popham, 1969, p. 35; Eisner, 1967, p. 250). To take issue with this widely accepted approach is to invoke a twofold risk. First to quarrel with such an overwhelmingly logical approach to curricular matters, one that has so well succeeded in establishing at least theoretical direction to many educational programs, is to lay oneself open to accusations of irrationality, an undesired, and hopefully undeserved, descriptor. Second, and more important, it is possible that faced with a position which questions the wholehearted acceptance of the behavioral objectives concept, frustrated and objective-weary nurse-teachers may too quickly opt for some other approach and lose the benefits that these valuable tools can provide.