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Introduction to Objectives

This reading provides definitions and examples of standards, goals, and objectives as they are used in CBI curriculum development.

Standards may be at the course (for post-secondary education), school, district, state or national level.  They reflect what teachers, students, administrators and community members want schools to accomplish in the long term; indeed, they may reflect life-long learning.  Content standards define what students should know and be able to do; they are attainable and need to be measurable over time.

The national Standards for Foreign Language Learning provide examples:

From the National Standards (for FL):

Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics.

Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.

Goals describe the long-range intents or purposes for a unit of study.  At the post-secondary level, they usually relate to the syllabus for a course or to a unit within the syllabus; in elementary and secondary contexts, they are at the unit level. That is, a teacher should have broad goals in mind for each curricular unit. They may be categorized into content (or cultural) and language goals.  Goals are more specific than standards but much broader and general than objectives.  Consider these goals:

Content—Students will:

  •  Gain cultural understanding of the Maya
  •  Develop a basic understanding of the concept of oppression from historical and present day perspectives.
  •  Develop a basic understanding of how stereotypes are formed and how they affect the ways in which people relate to one another.
  •  Understand some of the reasons for immigration.
  • Gain an understanding of the geographical features of Spain.

Language—Students will:

  •  Practice using present and past tenses in a variety of both oral and written tasks.
  •  Use all four modalities for meaningful communicative purposes.

Learning Strategies/Skills—Students will:

  • Use reading strategies to enhance comprehension of authentic texts

Objectives are written for the lesson level; they help transform unit-level goals into do-able stages or steps; so, each goal embeds multiple objectives.  Objectives reflect the what and why that underlie the how.  This is what distinguishes them from activities.  Objectives provide for a broad range of instructional possibilities; classroom teachers interpret them and transform them into classroom practice.  So, an objective that is written accurately remains constant even though the activity for reaching that objective may change. Like standards and goals, objectives are written in terms of what students will do.


Students will demonstrate understanding of a cultural perspective that is different from their own.


  • Students will read stories showing different cultural perspectives about pets.
  • Students will write a story that reflects a cultural perspective that is different from their own.

Instructional activities should focus on a particular content (academic content or cultural themes) that provides a meaningful context for vocabulary, linguistic structures, or phonological features to be learned. Students have difficulty learning linguistically related concepts when they are taught in decontextualized ways. If you want to work on a number of sound/symbol correspondences, do so within the context of a story or poem in which they appear frequently. If you want to teach various prepositions, for example, do so within the context of a basic science experiment or art activity or other hands-on task. This provides a context in which the various prepositions need to be used. If you want students to spell certain words correctly (always keeping in mind their developmental and proficiency levels), do so within the context of a written task that has a real communicative purpose. In CBI, there are different categories of objectives. Read more and see the many examples provided in the reading titled “Writing Objectives.”


Chamot, A. U., Barnhardt, S., El-Dinary, P. B., & Robbins, J. (1999). The learning strategies handbook. White Plains, NY: Addison-Wesley Longman.

O’Malley, J. M., & Chamot, A. U. (1990). Learning strategies in second language acquisition. NY: Cambridge University Press.

National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project. (1999). Standards for foreign language learning in the 21st century. Yonkers, NY: National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project.

Snow, M. A., Met, M., & Genesee, F. (1989). A conceptual framework for the integration of language and content instruction. TESOL Quarterly, 23, 201-217.

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