Tips + Tricks for Writing Objectives

Think of a time that you have had to write objectives for something.  What was it that you were writing for?  What was the experience like? 

For those of you with a teaching background, it was likely a piece of cake, but if you, like me, came into Extension from a content background the task may have caused more anxiety…

This blog post is intended to provide some tips and tricks for writing measurable objectives so that CCE Educators, when required to write objectives for programs, requests for proposals or presentations, or even activity promos can do so with greater ease and confidence.  Educators who practice these tips will reduce the amount of time taken to write objectives and will be more likely to clearly articulate desired outcomes. Yup – I snuck in an objective about writing objectives.

Tip oneWhere to start?   I typically start by asking myself two questions:

  1. What will successful implementation of an outcome look like?
  2. Are there standards that I need to be aware of in the program/proposal that I’m working on?

Thinking about question 1 helps me write something that is plain language – so important as we want others to understand our intent.  If the answer to question 2 is yes – then I research and review the document that has the standards – for example, I would use the CCE Plan of Work/Program Development Reporting Tool if it is for a local plan of work, or the actual RFP if it is for a proposal.  If you have a document that outlines the standard of what you are working towards, be sure that the objectives references or nests within whatever the standards say and that it is clear enough to the reader that there is a connection.

Tip two:  Pull out Bloom’s Taxonomy for a handy list of verbs that can help clarify exactly what you want your participants to be able to achieve.  If you haven’t used Bloom’s Taxonomy before – know that the columns align with logic model thinking…columns one and two are very typical for the participants in a short term experience.  For example, at the end of a workshop about home composting you might expect that participants will be able to identify several ways to compost in their backyard.  Columns two and three align with behavior change – so review the verbs in those columns to consider options for verbs to write reasonable, measurable objectives.  In the same example in a series about backyard composting my objective include: participants will integrate a backyard compost unit into their food waste strategy.  The real benefit to using Bloom’s Taxonomy is that objectives written this way are clear and measurable – you will have a built in start on an evaluation plan.

Tip three: If acronyms help you remember to put something into practice – you might like references (or just the acronym) SMART.  SMART goals and objectives will help you to hit on some key factors.  SMART goals and objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.  Depending on what you are writing objectives for – meeting all of those key elements in a SMART objectives might be necessary.  So a SMART objective for the above example might say – during the next year, public participants in home composting workshops will identify home composting practices that they intend to put into place, discuss new ideas with two other friends, neighbors, or relatives, and will demonstrate how they are putting home composting practices into place in their home gardens by using #mastergardener on social media.

I hope that these tips and tricks are helpful to you. 


Lucky Break or Planned Success?

“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation” – Seneca; Roman Philosopher

I recently interviewed Roger Philips, friend, social entrepreneur, and perpetual systems analyst – asking him for details about a successful/memorable event that he had planned.  He attributed the success that he had to early planning, involving others, and not growing weary from comments by naysayers.

In instructional design work, the early phase of the planning process is referred to as a “Needs Assessment”.  There are many ways to assess needs – but the goal is that it should help program planners to be successful…not just by luck, but by design.  The more formal the needs assessment process, the more data you will have if you need that to apply for funding – but it really doesn’t have to be long, arduous and painful.

In general, the process that I like looks like this:

  1. Identify people to talk with that represent diverse interests, locations, and viewpoints.  I like to do this with a small committee – so that even the thinking about who to involve is not just from my head.
  2. Ask your committee to schedule discussions with people who are and who are not your current audience – designed to let people talk and help you to listen.
  3. Prepare a way to capture discussions (I like to use Qualtrics, but there are many options).   Each of your committees might want to call 3-5 people and enter data into your survey.
  4. Review initial data and look for common themes, and ideas.
  5. Based on the themes, and ideas of the committee, you might want to prepare a follow up quantitative survey – that can be handed out, or sent by e-mail/social media.
  6. Review data and consider next steps.

needs assessment

In part Roger’s event was memorable and well attended because he did not work alone – he involved others early on, talked with many people, got their ideas, looped back around to them, helped them know that their ideas were helpful, and he and the team that he was working with designed a program that others were interested in and ready for.

Good luck – or rather – happy planning!


The Significance of Interactive Apps


Interactive applications are changing the face of training and education from passive to engaged learning. While lecture style/powerpoint presentations were considered industry standards at one point, research on teaching and learning and the availability of technology now more commonly influence the design of training. Engaged and thoughtful training design means that content is parsed out in digestible chunks with intentional opportunities for interaction, discussion, and low-stakes evaluations so there are no surprises to learners or the teachers at the end of the lesson time.

Interactive learning. Be it for youth or adults, research indicates that learning that engages the mind and body of the learner is more successful. Sesame Street revolutionized TV for kids in the 1970s. The Children’s Television Workshop (CTW) spent time researching how teaching and learning could be done by television. Their short segments, familiar characters, modules that were sometimes repeated, pauses for audience interaction were successful approaches to teaching. CTW has applied this same practice to interactive apps and learning on the web. Their website and applications are attractive to youth and adults, there are games that are interesting and engaging and the learning strategies have been tested and adapted. Higher education is beginning to embrace this approach. It has taken time perhaps because play feels like it is for children rather than adults. Additionally higher education is often entrenched with tradition, tenured faculty who many not be included to change, and subject matter experts focused on research rather than the practice of teaching.

Accessibility. One no longer needs to “go” to class – training via apps is accessibly anytime. When there is a long line at the grocery store – shoppers often take out their smart phone and begin to look around for something of interest. Games, apps, and learning that can be attempted in small bouts are attractive and make learning accessible to all people (with technology) anywhere. Kahn Academy has done a great job with this – topics are broken down into small lessons with tutorials and Q&A that allow users to jump in and out anytime. Kahn Academy lessons can be used to enhance the experience of a student taking a class or can be used in place of a class. There is no need to sign up, pay or even complete lessons. The a-la-carte approach offers no-pressure learning help to everyone, anytime.

Self-motivation. In the future I would anticipate that learners will be motivated to make use of applications and resources on their own in order to better themselves and their credentials. That is happening to some degree now, I would imagine that as the workforce begins to embrace self-made learners (over more traditional trainings) – more learners will grow their credentials using the tools available to them. I would also anticipate that the market will favor apps that help the learner achieve their learning objectives without a painful process – in other words games and interactive approaches will win this one.


Hirsh-Pasek, K., Zosh, J. M., Golinkoff, R. M., Gray, J. H., Robb, M. B., & Kaufman, J. (2015). Putting education in “educational” apps: Lessons from the science of learning. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 16(1), 3-34. doi:10.1177/1529100615569721

McLean, S., Attardi, S. M., Faden, L., & Goldszmidt, M. (2016). Flipped classrooms and student learning: Not just surface gains. Advances in Physiology Education, 40(1), 47-55. doi:10.1152/advan.00098.2015

Ramakrishnan, C., & Priyadarshini, V. (2014). Online learning process – enhancing quality of management education through infusion and diffusion processes – a case study. Edulearn14: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies, 1115-1123.

Revelle, G., Reardon, E., Green, M. M., Betancourt, J., & Kotler, J. (2007). The use of mobile phones to support children’s literacy learning. Persuasive Technology, 4744, 253-258.

Strommen, E. F., & Revelle, G. L. (1990). Research in interactive technologies at the children’s television workshop. Educational Technology Research and Development, 38(4), 65-80. Retrieved from


The Significance of Web-based Video on Learning

Anyone can contribute. Video on the web is being produced by a diverse group of people from around the world for a variety of reasons.  Tutorial videos, in particular, have had a significant impact on the way we learn to do things and how learners contribute to learning.  In the way that citizen science has turned every person into a scientist (or at least the collector of data) video production by the people at large has turned every person into a teacher.

Mastery comes to those who teach.  In the National Academies of Science document Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits the sequential learning process called  the 6 strands of learning documents the process of learning from being exposed to a subject to becoming proficient enough to teach.  Youth non-formal education has worked to create an environment where the six strands can most successfully be observed in youth participants.  As a career educator for a non-formal education system I’ve observed success numerous times – but certainly at a cost (time, energy, small percentage gets to a successful outcome).  Simultaneously, as the mom of a pre-teen son I’ve observed the six strand process happening without any intervention by school, non-formal education or me – but by the enthusiastic play of MineCraft.  My son has gone from an observer to an enthusiast, to one who wanted to share his ideas with friends and then create his own teaching modules to share his knowledge with others around the world.  He figured out the technology of building tutorials and sharing knowledge on his own because he was motivated.  Similarly my two daughters (18 and 20 years old) turn to YouTube before any other resource to find tutorials on how-to do anything and the girls have blogs that include video that focus on yoga, health and nutrition.

Constructivism at it’s best.  Reflecting on this idea – it is almost a revolution in teaching and learning – one that removes the middle man – the teacher – and allows equal access to information (for those with privilege enough to have technology) and teaching to the masses.  There is power in knowledge and it is not only the degreed that have that power – that is most evident at this juncture.  The quantity of video learning options has made us less tolerant of bad and inefficient teaching.  In general individuals seem more willing to find answers out their own and share, and less impressed by institution based education.  The ever-present tutorial and the ability for anyone to share seems to inspire more to be self-made learners.  Part of the learning is in the deconstruction of ideas and construction of teaching – the whole principle of constructivism.

Opportunities for instructional designers.  The opportunities are great for those who understand teaching, learning and technology – which includes and in some cases requires instructional designers. Some faculty may embrace the ideas of video and tutorial based learning, and some wax traditional.  In both cases support is necessary to help create instruction that will engage the learners and help the learners engage others.
Natl Res Council. (2009). Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits. WASHINGTON; 2101 CONSTITUTION AVE, WASHINGTON, DC 20418 USA: NATL ACADEMIES PRESS.

Sergio Artal, J., Luis Navarro, J., & Luis Bernal, J. (2014). Youtube & facebook as educational tools in the teaching-learning process. Experience in higher education. Iceri2014: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation, 940-949.

O’Neill, Megan. (2010). 5 ways YouTube has changed the world forever. Social times. Retrieved July 20, 2016 from