Definitions of Behavioral Verbs for Learning
Updated January 12, 2018
Few would argue that behavioral verbs are nothing less than the heart
of learning objectives, which are in turn the core component of effective
lesson plans. The relationship between behavioral verbs, learning
objectives, and lesson plans is, or should be, obviuous.
If defined and used consistently, such verbs are a highly
effective way to indicate, and communicate to others, specific, observable
student behavior. Behavioral verbs describe an observable product or action.
Teachers and others constantly make inferences about student learning on the
basis of what students do or produce. Valid inferences can only be made when
there is little or no doubt regarding what is intended. Any "planning"
document that does not contain a valid learning objective cannot be a lesson
plan. It's simple: no objective, no plan.
It follows then, that one way to define
curriculum is in terms of intended student behavior. Learning objectives
based on a set of verbs that have some measure of agreement as to meaning
can provide a useful vehicle for the purpose of developing performance-based
curriculum. In education, there is no substitute for clarity, specificity,
and a professional vocabulary. Consistent use of defined behavioral verbs in
composing, rewriting or selecting learning objectives can lead to
improvement in efforts to change and reform education in general and
curriculum in particular.
The following verbs and their definitions can be
helpful when composing learning objectives. These are general definitions
that describe only the observable behavior and do not include linkages to
any specific content. These definitions are provided for those who seek a
basis for a technical vocabulary regarding student performance. To see
examples of these verbs used in specific content areas, click here.
APPLY A RULE: To
state a rule as it applies to a situation, object or event that is being
analyzed. The statement must convey analysis of a problem situation and/or
its solution, together with the name or statement of the rule that was
stipulate the conditions by which the behavior specified in an objective may
be ascertained. Such stipulations are usually in the form of written
descriptions. For obvious reasons, assess is rarely used as a verb in
learning objectives at the elementary school level.
place objects, words, or situations into categories according to defined
criteria for each category. The criteria must be made known to the student.
COMPOSE: To formulate a composition in
written, spoken, musical or artistic form.
make a drawing, structure, or model that identifies a designated object or
set of conditions.
stipulate the requirements for inclusion of an object, word, or situation in
a category or class. Elements of one or both of the following must be
included: (1) The characteristics of the words, objects, or situations that
are included in the class or category. (2) The characteristics of the words,
objects, or situations that are excluded in the class or category. To define
is to set up criteria for classification.
student performs the operations necessary for the application of an
instrument, model, device, or implement. NOTE: There is a temptation to use
demonstrate in objectives such as, "the student will demonstrate his
knowledge of vowel sounds." As the verb is defined, this is improper use of
name all of the necessary categories of objects, object properties, or event
properties that are relevant to the description of a designated situation.
The objective is of the form, "The student will describe this order, object,
or event," and does not limit the categories that may be used in mentioning
them. Specific or categorical limitations, if any, are to be given in the
performance standards of each objective. When using this verb in an
objective, it is helpful to include a statement to the effect of what the
description, as a minimum, must reference.
construct a drawing with labels and with a specified organization or
structure to demonstrate knowledge of that organization or structure.
Graphic charting and mapping are types of diagramming, and these terms may
be used where more exact communication of the structure of the situation and
response is desired.
identify under conditions when only two contrasting identifications are
involved for each response.
assess the dimension of an object, series of objects, event or condition
without applying a standard scale or measuring device. Logical techniques of
estimation, such as are involved in mathematical interpolation, may be used.
classify objects, situations, people, conditions, etc., according to defined
criteria of quality. Indication of quality must be given in the defined
criteria of each class category. Evaluation differs from general
classification only in this respect.
indicate the selection of an object of a class in response to its class
name, by pointing, picking up, underlining, marking, or other responses.
translate information from observation, charts, tables, graphs, and written
material in a verifiable manner.
stipulate a verbal (oral or written) response to a given object, drawing, or
composition that contains information relative to the known, but unspecified
structure of these objects, drawings, or compositions. Labeling is a complex
behavior that contains elements of naming and identifying.
stipulate the position of an object, place, or event in relation to other
specified objects, places, or events. Ideational guides to location such as
grids, order arrangements and time may be used to describe location. Note:
Locate is not to be confused with IDENTIFY.
MEASURE: To apply a standard scale or
measuring device to an object, series of objects, events, or conditions,
according to practices accepted by those who are skilled in the use of the
device or scale.
supply the correct name, in oral or written form for an object, class of
objects, persons, places, conditions, or events which are pointed out or
arrange two or more objects or events in accordance with stated criteria.
PREDICT: To use a rule or principle to
predict an outcome or to infer some consequence. It is not necessary that
the rule or principle be stated.
imitate or copy an action, construction, or object that is presented.
effect a solution to a given problem, in writing or orally. The problem
solution must contain all the elements required for the requested solution,
and may contain extraneous elements that are not required for solution. The
problem must be posed in such a way that the student that the student is
able to determine the type of response that is acceptable.
STATE A RULE: To make a statement that
conveys the meaning of the rule, theory or principle.
TRANSLATE: To transcribe one symbolic
form to another of the same or similar meaning.
There is much more available. If you really want
to learn and improve your skills in writing objectives or selecting
objectives written by others, please consider purchasing my
self-instructional, interactive program called Catalyst: Tools for Effective
Teaching 2.0. It is available in both download and CD format. It is effective,
inexpensive, and most of all, honest. Click on this link to read more. http://www.adprima.com/wlo5.htm
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go to examples of the behavioral verbs in English Language Arts,
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