Writing Behavioral Objectives

A behavioral objective is a learning outcome stated in measurable terms, which gives direction to the learner’s experience and becomes the basis for student evaluation.

Objectives may vary in several respects. They may be general or specific, concrete or abstract, cognitive, affective, or psychomotor. Cognitive objectives emphasize intellectual outcomes, such as knowledge, understanding, and thinking skills. Affective objectives emphasize feeling and emotion, such as interests, values, attitudes, appreciation, and methods of adjustment. Psychomotor objectives emphasize motor skills, such as physical assessment skills and administration of chemotherapy.

Points in writing behavioral objectives:

  1. Begin each behavioral objective with a verb. The critical aspect of any behavioral objective is the verb selected to indicate expected behavior from learning activities.
  2. State each objective in terms of learner performance. A behavioral objective is one that is considered to be observable and measurable. Behavior is generally construed to be an action of an individual that can be seen, felt, or heard by another person.
  3. State each objective so that it includes only one general learning outcome.

Examples of objectives

At the graduate level of nursing education, it is expected that learning objectives will be generalabstract, and cognitive or affective. Examples of appropriate objectives for graduate students are as follows:

  • Cognitive: Create an assessment tool based on a nursing theory for patients experiencing pain.
  • CognitiveEvaluate the usefulness of nursing research in clinical practice.
  • Affective: Accept professional responsibility for change in problem clinical situations.

Illustrative verbs for stating specific learning objectives:


Many references are available concerning Behavioral Objectives. The materials in this guide were taken from:  Gronlund, N. E. (2004). Writing instructional objectives for teaching and assessment(7th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall.