Goal Setting | Motivation |
Cognitive Strategy | Cooperative Learning | Assessment
Excerpted from Chapter 2 of Gage/Berliner's textbook
EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, 6/e, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998.
What Are the Major Tasks of
Why Do We Need Standards and
How Standards-Based Reform Has
The Teacher's Role in Determining
Thinking About Standards, Objectives, and Goals in Terms of Student Performance
Indentifying Three Domains
What Are the Major Tasks of Teaching?
The instructional process involves five primary tasks:
1. Choosing objectives (content and performances)
2. Understanding student characteristics
3. Understanding and using ideas about the nature of
learning and motivation
4. Selecting and using ways of teaching (methods and
5. Evaluating student learning
It is helpful to think of each task as a set of problems
for both teachers and their students. Educational psychology
can help teachers make wiser decisions as they formulate
solutions. Although we present the tasks as a chronological
list, the instructional process is actually a cycle, which
goes back and forth between these tasks.
The Tasks in the Cycle:
1. The teacher begins with some idea of objectives
concerning the content that students should be helped to
learn and the performances they should be helped to acquire
for that content.
2. In choosing objectives, the teacher uses information
about the important characteristics of the students. Tasks 1
and 2 occur simultaneously, and interact. You need to
understand your students' stage of development and their
abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. In the students'
words, "The teacher should know us and then treat us
appropriately. For example, she should realize how much we
do (and don't) know."
3. Next the teacher must understand learning and
motivation so as to understand and choose teaching methods
and practices that fit what is known about students'
learning and motivation. Teachers can apply knowledge about
learning and motivation both before and during instruction.
4. After all the preinstructional decisions, the teacher
selects and uses teaching methods and practices, such as
lecturing, explaining, discussing, showing movies or
videotapes, tutoring, providing computer-assisted
instruction, leaving students alone, or some combination of
5. Both throughout the process and usually at the end of
a cycle the teacher assesses students' achievement of
educational objectives. Students need to be told when they
are (or are not) doing a good job. They need guidance on how
to improve, for example, by being told to check their
comprehension by putting an idea into their own words.
Students demand fairness in how they are assessed and
If assessment shows that students have achieved the
objectives, the teacher can go on to new objectives. But if
assessment reveals that some or all of the students have not
learned the content and performances that were taught, the
teacher will need to reflect on why and adjust instruction
accordingly. Remember that the process is a cycle;
"recycling" is expected.
Why Do We Need Standards and Objectives?
People involved in all kinds of educational tasks -- not
only teaching but also curriculum designing and achievement
testing -- insist that statements of standards and
objectives are helpful, even essential. Unless they think
about objectives, teachers tend to focus primarily on the
content of instruction classroom activities and ignore how
students should learn to perform with that content.
Think about your own experiences as a student. Have you
ever wished a teacher had told you more clearly what you
should have been learning and why? Without the teacher's
focus on students' performance goals, students often assume
that they need only to remember content. A history teacher,
for example, may want students to be able to see connections
between historical and present-day events. But if the
teacher does not explain this intention to the students,
they may assume that they should simply remember what they
read rather than trying to look at contemporary problems in
Objectives can apply to education as a whole or only to
teaching. Many educational objectives -- self-fulfillment,
appreciation of the nature of a good life, love of knowledge
-- are broader than any single teacher can hope to achieve.
In this chapter we focus on the objectives of teaching --
what you as a teacher want your students to achieve as a
result of your efforts. We will focus on objectives in
content-general terms, ways that cut across subject matters
and can also be used in thinking in content-specific terms,
that is, in reading, mathematics, physical education, or any
other content area.
How Standards-Based Reform Has Affected Objectives
In recent years critics of American education have argued
that the achievement of U.S. students falls below that of
students in other countries with which the nation must
compete economically. These critics place much of the blame
for these shortcomings on what they consider to be the
inadequate standards of achievement set by American
So a new focus on educational standards has motivated
educators to reexamine the ways in which objectives are
formed and used. This focus has led to the standards-based
reform movement (O'Day & Smith, 1993) and the
development of new curriculum standards in various
subject-matter fields. The standards emerging from educators
and professional organizations in art, social studies,
mathematics, and other professions, which are intended to
guide our states, districts, and teachers, set forth the
contents and performances considered most important. For
example, for mathematics, science, and social studies,
respectively, the National Council of Teachers of
Mathematics (1989), the National Research Council (1996),
and the National Center for History in the Schools (1994)
have each issued content standards.
We provide this information about the use of standards in
educational reform because it is receiving considerable
attention. The question is whether these statements of
standards and objectives will improve education across the
country. However, we must add an important caution. Not
everyone in education believes that all the criticisms of
American schooling are justified; Berliner and Biddle
(1995), among others, have challenged the validity of many
of the test results and assumptions on which the criticisms
The same educators point to the importance of
opportunity-to-learn standards as well as content and
performance standards (Berliner & Biddle, 1996).
Opportunity-to-learn standards have to do with the quality
of educational resources provided -- the teachers available,
the amount of time available for learning, the availability
of computers for learning, and all the other characteristics
of schooling that provide students with the opportunity to
meet the standards and achieve the objectives. If those
opportunities to learn are not equal for all of America's
children, then school improvement through standards-based
reform may occur only in the schools that can afford to
implement the opportunity-to-learn standards. Children
attending schools in poorer districts may have trouble
meeting the new national content and performance standards.
The Teacher's Role in Determining Content
At the same time, the teacher's decisions about and
choices of content will often be guided by the concerns of
educational psychology. Some psychological guidelines are as
1. Appropriateness in difficulty. The content's
difficulty should be appropriate to the students' ability,
maturity, and level of background knowledge, so that the
teacher does not demand more (or less) than they are capable
of learning at their level.
Teachers too often expect too little of their students,
particularly poor and minority students, and underestimate
what they are capable of learning. And much research (e.g.,
Dusek, 1985) demonstrates that teachers' expectations, both
positive and negative, affect students' achievement. (You
will find a good deal of what psychology offers for
understanding student ability and developmental level in
later chapters, especially Chapters 3, 4, and 5.)
2. Appropriateness to learning processes. What we know
about the various ways in which learning can take place (as
set forth especially in Chapters 6 and 7) should be used to
choose and shape the content. Such knowledge helps a teacher
to avoid content that conflicts with natural learning
processes, and can be used to help students use those
processes to foster achievement.
3. Appropriateness to students' motivations. Content
should be chosen in the light of students' motivations.
Motivations include interests, appreciations, aspirations,
and ambitions, and all of them affect learning. So
understandings about motivation (discussed especially in
Chapter 8) should provide bases for the decisions teachers
must make in choosing content (and methods of teaching) that
will engage their students.
4. Appropriateness to teaching methods. Choices of
content depend in part on what teaching methods and
practices are feasible. Some kinds of content are better
taught to some students, in some situations, by one kind of
teaching -- a lecture, cooperative learning, or a hands-on
exercise -- rather than another. In turn, some kinds of
teaching are more feasible than others. (Chapters 9 to 12
treat these critical factors.)
5. Appropriateness to assessment. Finally, choices of
content may be influenced by what educational psychology
says about ways of assessing student achievement.
Achievement can be measured in many different ways, ranging
from multiple-choice tests to portfolios containing products
of student work. Good assessment practices are themselves
determined by psychologically sound ideas about the nature
of desirable achievement, so they are tied closely to the
teacher's content decisions.
All five factors will help you as a classroom teacher to
determine what content to teach. The best thinking and
experience of those who focus primarily on what should be
taught -- curriculum specialists, textbook authors,
committees of teachers, and many others -- do not exempt
you, the individual teacher, from thinking about content
Thinking About Standards, Objectives, and Goals in Terms of Student Performance
Statements of objectives act as maps guiding teacher and
students. To find a city, we do not need a road map that
specifies every village and creek; in fact, such specificity
could get in the way. But to find a house, we need a street
map. Similarly, in teaching we may need general or specific
objectives, or both.
No teacher should be required to base instruction on the
hundreds of objectives and subobjectives that could be
specified for a unit of instruction. General objectives can
describe the broad outlines of what students should achieve
in a given content area (Gronlund, 1991).
Objectives in any content area can be visualized as
forming a pyramid. At the apex is a single term (reading,
algebra, world history). Just below that are various
divisions of that area (in reading: decoding skills, word
identification, etc.; in algebra: understanding the equation
principle, etc.; in world history: political, cultural).
Below that level, still more specific subdivisions can be
identified (in decoding skills: pronouncing vowels; in
equations: linear and quadratic equations; in cultural
history: a day in the life of ancient Rome, etc.). The
specification can go on indefinitely.
But where to draw the line? The teacher, using objectives
as a road map, must decide. It depends on how well the
teacher knows the "territory." When teaching content for the
first time, the teacher may need much specificity, just as
the newcomer to a state needs both a state road map and a
town's street map. But the teacher (traveler) who has taught
the content before (knows the state) may need only specific
objectives (a street map) to find his or her way. And the
veteran needs neither objectives nor maps.
For most teachers, as they gain experience the amount of
specificity they need diminishes. But beginners may
need specific reminders.
Within each of the general objectives, teachers may have
to develop more specific objectives. When doing so, they
find the advice of Mager (1975) useful.
1. State objectives in terms of performances -- what
teachers can see or hear students do once they have learned.
Performances include mental processes -- ways of thinking
and feeling, and evidence of these ways in the form of
products such as what students have done, said, written,
enacted, drawn, or built. For instance, a general objective
for students reading this book might be "understanding
educational psychology." To state part of the objective in
terms of performances, we could state that students should
"be able to grasp the significance of empirical methods in
education." Or that students should "know and appreciate the
concepts and principles of educational psychology." But we
must then spell out how students should be able to perform
when they "understand," "grasp significance," "know," or
Think of the objective as stating the terminal
performance -- what the student will be able to do at the
end of instruction. We specify performances more when we say
that students should be able to:
- differentiate among the correlational, experimental,
and interpretive methods in educational psychology
- give original examples of situations calling for
general only and for both general and specific objectives
- make up a 10-item multiple-choice test (following
procedures described in Chapter 14).
Each of these objectives is more precise than general
objectives that merely use words like understand or
appreciate. Differentiating, describing, and making
up original examples tell us what performance to look for
and describe terminal performances clearly and explicitly.
2. State conditions of performance -- the situation or
setting in which the student should be able to perform. That
is, simple statements of wanted performance may not be
enough. Often we should also specify the important
conditions under which the performance is expected to occur.
For example, suppose our objective is, "Students should be
able to contrast the correlational and experimental methods
of research." We might want to add to it such conditions as
"using provided (or student-identified) examples of actual
research articles"; "with or without class notes (or the
text)"; "at home (or in class)"; "orally (or in writing)."
Wording that informs students about conditions is easy to
recognize. For examples, look at Table 2.2. The first phrase
or clause of each objective states a condition.
3. State acceptable levels of performance -- what will be
considered adequate achievement. Should you refer to a
necessary rate of speed? Should students be able to solve
only one type of problem? or three? or four out of six?
questions in only one form? in several forms? That is, how
can you make clear to the student what you will consider to
be the standard for judging the learning to be a success?
For example, it may not be enough to say, "Students
should recognize the writing style of Ernest Hemingway." It
might be better to say, "Given ten pairs of short prose
passages, each pair having one selection by Ernest Hemingway
and one by a different author, students should be able to
choose at least nine of the ten selections written by
Hemingway." Look again at the examples in Table 2.2 and see
if you can find the part of each objective statement that
expresses the level of performance expected.
To apply and illustrate what we have just said: we could
state our objective as, "Given this introduction and one
hour's time, you will be able to construct ten objectives in
a subject-matter area of your choice, at least eight of
which meet the criteria listed above."
What kinds of objectives are there? Educators and
psychologists have developed taxonomies of objectives. These
are classi_cation schemes for making distinctions to help
teachers organize their thinking about objectives. They also
help in teaching students and evaluating their achievement.
Identifying Three Domains
One major set of distinctions draws upon the differences
among cognitive, affective, and psychomotor performances.
1. Cognitive objectives (Bloom, Engelhart, Furst, Hill,
& Krathwohl, 1956) deal with intellectual processes such
as knowing, perceiving, recognizing, thinking, conceiving,
judging, and reasoning. When a teacher is concerned about
Josh's inability to spell words correctly, she is referring
to an objective in the cognitive domain.
2. Affective objectives (Krathwohl, Bloom, & Masia,
1964) deal with feelings -- likes and dislikes, emotions,
attitudes, appreciations, interests, values, and the like.
When the teacher worries about Josh's boredom with reading,
she is dealing with the affective domain.
3. Psychomotor objectives (Harrow, 1972) deal with
skilled ways of moving, such as handwriting, typewriting,
dancing, and blowing glass for a chemistry experiment.
These three kinds of performance are never completely
isolated from one another. But it often is useful to focus
on one at a time.
This was excerpted from Chapter 2 of Gage/Berliner's
textbook EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY, 6/e, Houghton Mifflin Co.,
For more information on "Goal Setting"
in Biehler/Snowman, PSYCHOLOGY APPLIED TO TEACHING, 8/E,
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997, see Chapter 7, "Devising and
For more information on "Goal Setting"
in the Grabes' INTEGRATING TECHNOLOGY FOR MEANINGFUL
LEARNING, 2/e, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1998, see pages 19-22
on Teacher Preparation and pages 356-360 on