Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning

By Michael Byram | Go to book overview

O

Objectives in language teaching and learning

Etymologically, 'objective' means that which is placed in front, towards which one moves, the purpose or the object which one plans to attain. In the field of pedagogy, teaching by objectives appeared in the USA in the mid-1950s, developed from two origins, that of organisation and efficiency in business on the one hand, and that of behavioural PSYCHOLOGY on the other. This inheritance helps to explain the ambiguity of the term which can mean the aims of a course and also a means of giving value to a personal journey towards AUTONOMY.

Defining objectives allows us to operationalise the aims and questions the presentation of the contents of a course, but the role of objectives in teaching and learning languages is greater than this, since the formulation of objectives, i.e. describing them and identifying one from another also means being able to determine what it means to have attained them. The relationship between objectives and ASSESSMENT is both determining and dynamic and seems to be at the heart of the teaching and learning of languages: there is no formative assessment without explicit formulation (and negotiation, as we shall see later) of objectives, and no formulation of objectives without taking into account the degree to which they can be realised.

Historically this relationship is part of a systems approach which developed in Europe in the 1970s. In a pedagogy by objectives, progression is organised in stages. These stages, which should ideally be apparent to all the partners involved, correspond to intermediate or operational objectives which are themselves defined in terms of behaviour-responses observable in the person being taught (Mager, 1962). It is precisely because the operational objective is an observable behaviour that it can be distinguished from aims and intentions (Bloom, 1956). The definition given by de Landesheere in 1975 emphasises this point: 'What observable behaviour will demonstrate that the objective has been attained, what will be the product of this behaviour, in what conditions will the behaviour have to take place?'

Finally, the formulation of objectives involves the analysis of a course. The famous taxonomy created by Bloom in 1956 by formulating SKILLS which are both capable of being isolated and placed in a hierarchy, and by identifying classes of objectives which are pedagogic but also cognitive (intellectual), psycho-motor, affective (emotional and moral), was a defining piece of research in the improvement of assessment. The aim was to restore a strict equivalence between the level of final requirements and that of learning (Hameline, 1979).


Objectives and the learning process

In classroom practice, a close interaction of plans for activities/formative assessment/adaptation/ new assessment can be developed and the circle is complete (Hameline, 1979). Teaching by objectives gives the teacher the means, at each stage, by intermediate objectives, of measuring the distance between actual behaviour and expected behaviour,

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Routledge Encyclopedia of Language Teaching and Learning
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vi
  • Editorial Team vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • Acknowledgements xvii
  • Thematic List of Entries xviii
  • A 1
  • B 73
  • C 90
  • D 169
  • E 188
  • F 217
  • G 228
  • H 254
  • Bibliography 259
  • I 288
  • J 316
  • L 325
  • M 394
  • N 436
  • O 452
  • P 458
  • Q 499
  • R 504
  • S 522
  • Bibliography 577
  • T 595
  • Bibliography 643
  • U 644
  • V 658
  • W 673
  • Index 679
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