University of Cincinnati
College of Engineering


Advanced Teaching Techniques

3. Aims, Goals, and Objectives

Expressions of the values of instruction, more specific directions of the curriculum, and specific behavioral outcomes of instruction.

Instruction is more effective when the desired outcomes are fully understood and accepted by program planners, instructors, and students. Complete upstanding of the outcomes of instruction is facilitated by dear statements of the “aims,” “goals,” and “objectives” of the educational program. Aims are general expressions of values that provide a sense of directions. The are broadly stated outcomes which are acceptable to virtually everyone who is interested in the educational program under consideration. Examples of aims related to a secondary school science program are:

  • All students should become scientifically literate.
  • Students who plan advanced studies in the fields of science or engineering should develop a broad background in both science and mathematics.
  • Students should develop an interest in and appreciation for the interactions of science, technology, and society.
Aims are important in communicating outcomes with which many individuals can agree. However, aims alone cannot be used to guide instructional decisions because they are too broad and general. To be useful, aims require greater specification which is presented in the form of goals and objectives
Goals, like aims, provide a sense of direction, but they are more precise.  Goals relate a general aim to some specific aspect of the curriculum. The previously stated aims could be converted to goals like these:
  • General biology students will understand that their personal health decisions impact the functioning of their bodies as a biological organism.
  • Physics students will know that energy is conserved in all ordinary physical interactions and that the conservation can be demonstrated mathematically.
  • Chemistry students will know there have been both social benefits and costs associated with the widespread use of agricultural insecticides.
Goals connect aims to tangible aspects of the curriculum. Although goals are more specific than aims, they always are derived in ways that contribute to realizing the aims. High level curriculum planning committees often specify the aims which guide an educational program; teams of teachers are responsible for formulating goals which are consistent with these aims and feasible with the resources and time allocated to different parts of the educational program.

Objectives carry this process one step further by describing the specific behaviors the learner is to attain, the conditions under which the behavior must be demonstrated, and the proficiency level at which the behavior is to be performed. The previously stated goals could be converted to an objectives like these:

  • Upon completion of the unit on the circulatory system, the biology students will be able to list the advantages of a low fat diet.
  • Physics students will be able to calculate and measure the energy in a system of colliding dynamics carts before and after an inelastic collision.
  • Students will be able to list at least three benefits and three drawbacks of the use of DDT in this country during the 1950’s.
  • Fifth grade students will make and record observations of the weather conditions over a two week period of time, noting clouds, precipitation, temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure.
Objectives must be tailored to fit a particular class of students. If the published teacher’s guide for a course includes objectives, the classroom teacher may need to rewrite them to fit individual students or groups of students who have specific needs which are different from those of the “typical” class.

Moving from established aims to goals, and from goals to objectives assures that the educational program addresses topics which are important to all parties involved. The aims which guide the development of goals should be clearly articulated. The goals should be feasible. Finally, instructional objectives should be written which are appropriate for moving a specific group of learners toward the goals and aims of the educational program. Individual courses will enjoy broad-based support when objectives, goals, and aims are clearly written, widely accepted, and consistent. And, most importantly, the learning that occurs in these courses precedes more efficiently and achieves higher levels of understanding.


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