Who Should Select Objectives?

By Ediger, Marlow | Journal of Instructional Psychology, September 1999 | Go to article overview

Who Should Select Objectives?


Ediger, Marlow, Journal of Instructional Psychology


A perennial problem in teaching and learning pertains to who should determine objectives for instruction. Objectives need to be selected carefully so that relevant subject matter and skills are taught and learned. The time that pupils are in school is short. Most pupils attend for eight years of elementary and four years of secondary plus one school year of kindergarten. Each school year is basically nine months in duration. The author discusses issues related to who is best situated and prepared to select these objectives.

The Basics and Instructional Objectives

Advocates of the basics believe that there is a body of knowledge that all pupils should achieve. The body of knowledge represents essential content in English and literature, social studies, science, mathematics, art, music, and physical education. The first four academic disciplines mentioned are the big four and are conceived to receive major attention.

Academic specialists in their academic area of specialty need to help in choosing what is salient for pupils to learn. The agreed upon objectives should then be available for teachers to use as bench marks for instruction. Only the basics or essentials should be emphasized in instruction. Implications for stressing the basics in the curriculum are the following:

1. The basics can be identified and represent what are essential for pupils to learn.

2. Trivia is reduced in the curriculum.

3. Academic specialists outside the local classroom determine what pupils are to learn.

Questions that might be asked about the basics include the following:

1. How relevant can these learning be made for pupils, when they are externally selected by those removed from the classroom setting?

2. Should pupils be involved in choosing their own sequence in learning opportunities?

3. Is it possible to select and agree upon which are the basics (Ediger, 1995, 116-117)?

Higher Standards

There are many advocates of setting higher standards for pupils to achieve. They believe that objectives for pupils to achieve are too lax. The United States will then not remain competitive with other nations in the economic world. Thus, pupils need more challenge and to achieve more complex objectives than is presently the case. There are selected assumptions concerning setting higher standards for pupils to achieve (Ediger, 1998, 52).

1. Pupils can achieve at a level that the schools are not emphasizing.

2. Learners will not be ready for the work place if higher standards are not emphasized presently in the classroom setting.

3. Experts need to set high standards for pupils to achieve.

Questions that need to be asked concerning a higher standards philosophy of instruction might be the following:

1. How do individuals involved in setting higher standards for pupils to achieve have knowledge of how difficult the objectives should be for pupil achievement?

2. Does higher academic achievement in school make for better workers later as adults at the work place?

3. Will teaching and education improve with pupils being required to achieve higher standards?

Constructivism and Objectives of Instruction

With constructivism, pupils are rather heavily involved, with teacher assistance, in determining objectives, learning opportunities, and evaluation procedures (Ediger, 1998, 24). Pupils and teachers, according to constructivism, are in the best position to determine the curriculum, not outsiders who decide upon higher standards for pupils to achieve, nor those who determine the basics (Ediger, 1995).

Pupils with teacher assistance also are in the best position to determine sequence in the curriculum. It is the pupil who must experience sequence. The focal point is the pupil when the philosophy of constructivism is emphasized in ongoing lessons and units of study.

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