A few days ago I attended a workshop at Rider University sponsored by ACRL-NJ and VALE about writing performance objectives and developing assessment for library instruction sessions. Heather Dalal, of Rider (who was also a panel member at our library instruction program this past semester) and Lynee Dokus, of County College of Morris, gave a talk on the Dick and Carey model of instruction.They generously put together a site of all of their presentation files, so check out some of the worksheets that they provided to help write objectives and develop assessments.The Dick & Carey model of instruction is thoroughly explained in the book The Systematic Design of Instruction, and it’s easier to visualize with this flow chart that Heather and Lynee provided.


A few takeaway points from the presentation: 

  • You need to understand learner contexts before you start teaching. For instance, if someone doesn’t know how to use a mouse, it will be difficult to teach them how to use an online database.
  • A written performance objective should be specific and use action verbs to help its specificity. Phrases like “know,” “understand,” or “gain an appreciation of” are hard to measure. Phrases like “select,” “write,” and “identify” are easier to measure because they align with a behavior.
  • With that said, a well-written learning objective will lend itself to developing an assessment. For example, an objective like “The student will be able to identify and list the differences between MLA format and other citation formats,” is better than “The student will understand citation style.”
  • You develop the assessment right after you’ve developed the learning objectives–before you’ve developed the instructional strategy or instructional materials, which should be closely aligned with the objects and how you’ll measure them.
  • The process is iterative and allows for revision. If students aren’t achieving the learning outcomes you expect, you can look at your materials, strategy, assessments, or objectives at any point in the process and modify them to create better success.

Jen Hunter
jah123 @ camden.rutgers.edu