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Writing Behavioral Objectives

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There is less consensus surrounding which theory best categorizes a hierarchy of behavioral (or psychomotor) learning. We will not take the time to explore a list of possible behavioral taxonomies, as this can be pursued via a Google search on the topic. Instead, we will focus on a proven model that we believe has value in theological education, namely, Horizon's adaptation of Ravindra Dave's taxonomy [1] of behavioral learning.

BEHAVIORAL: Imitate: observe and copy the actions of others (replicate, adhere, match, mimic, follow) / Perform: reproduce activity from instruction or memory (implement, execute, manipulate, build, display) / Perfect: execute skill reliably, independent of help (habitualize, fine-tune, model, actualize, finesse) / Modify: adapt and integrate expertise in novel ways (formulate, synthesize, diagnose, adapt, develop) / Master: automated, unconscious command of activity and related skills (improvise, strategize, discern, embody, invent). Adapted from Dave, 1975.

Horizon adapted Dave’s taxonomy by changing her titles from nouns to verbs and by seeking to better align them with our priorities in theological education. So, what do you think? Do you find these categories and descriptions helpful?

One common critique of online education related to behavioral learning is how to address the physical distance that separates teachers and students from one another. How would you respond to this challenge? At Horizon, we have responded in two ways.

First, we have discovered that applying this same critique to classroom-based theological education confronts us with a similar set of problems. We recognize that most ministry competencies can only be simulated in the classroom. In reality, these competencies are better achieved and assessed in real-life ministry settings, such as in apprenticeship models of education. In this sense, online education actually offers an advantage over classroom-based approaches since learners are situated within their real-life contexts during the learning experience. The challenge then is envisioning how we might push our learning activities and assessments into the contexts of our learners' lives and ministries, relying on local evaluation, personal reflection, collaboration and dialogue as some of our primary educational tools.

It takes several generations to get past the point of depending on the old medium for a way to think about the new and to get to the point of exploiting the new medium artfully in its own right.
James O'Donnell

Second, O’Donnell’s subtle admonition that researchers explore how the medium of online education might be “artfully [exploited] in its own right,” [2] has led to some significant new perspectives on the subject. Recent research is suggesting that the most effective educational models today are in fact blended or hybrid models. These effective models are seeking to leverage the strengths of both online and face-to-face approaches, while accounting for inherent weaknesses in each mode of instruction. If you were to suggest lists of strengths and weaknesses for both online and face-to-face education, what would you include? At Horizon, we are encouraging educators to consider how they might maximize the effectiveness of their programs in these blended or hybrid ways.


[1] Ravindra H. Dave, "Psychomotor Levels" in Developing and Writing Behavioural Objectives, ed. Robert J. Armstrong (Tucson: Educational Innovators Press, 1975).

[2] James J. O'Donnell, Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000), 42.



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