Typhani Harris | February 2017

Aligning Tasks with Intended Behaviors

Last week we took a look at how to compose clear, measurable, 3 part objectives, including how to make these objectives digestible for our students.  This week we are taking a look at how we can ensure that the task we are assigning is measuring behavior as we have intended to create.

Quick Recap

Just to recap the composition of a 3 part objective:

Part 1: The first part is Measuring Behavior. 

This is the student behavior you are evaluating and usually includes a product/task.   The behavior is often represented by a verb; these verbs can be pulled from Bloom’s Taxonomy, Costa’s levels of questioning, and/or Depth of Knowledge (all which you can quickly Google to find what you prefer).

Examples: Identify synonyms by matching like terms; defend your position by writing a persuasive paragraph; interpret the piece by critiquing the author’s statement and comparing it to the composition.

Part 2: The second part is Condition.

This is the environment that is provided for the students in order to be successful in measuring behavior.  Often seen as a teacher action, the condition offers the method by which the teacher sets up the students so they can successfully perform the behavior.

Examples: after lecture and note-taking, given an informational text, after cooperative group practice

Part 3: The third part is Criteria.

This answers the question: how do you know that your student learned?  What do your students need to “score” in order to be successful?  Is it a number of accuracies?  Is it a percentage correct?  Is it a rating on a rubric?  Beyond the score needed to determine success, this underlines the data you need in order to determine whether or not you can move on.  How many of your students need to be successful (as defined by the criteria) in order for you to be comfortable moving onto the next lesson…we will get more in-depth about data in a couple weeks :)

Examples90% accuracy, a score of at least 3 on a rubric, 8/10 correct

To review the process of creating 3 part objectives, check out last weeks’ post HERE.


Now that we know the parts needed to design a measurable objective, we need to ensure we are aligning the objectives with the task/product we are requesting.  Let’s take a look at the following objective:

After lecture and notes, evaluate how the condition of post-WWI Germany contributed to the rise of a dictator by accurately completing (at least 4/5) multiple choice questions.  So, if we break this down:

Behavior: Evaluate
Condition: After lecture and notes
Criteria: 4 of 5 correct answers

There are 3 parts to this objective which puts it on the right track, but if we analyze the alignment we will see a discrepancy.  The behavior that this objective is asking students to demonstrate is Evaluate, however, the task by which we are measuring the students’ ability to Evaluate is a multiple choice assignment.  So, let’s break it down a little more:

In order to measure a student’s ability to evaluate, students will need to use their voice; they will need to critique the situation, defend their position, justify their reasoning, and rationalize their choice.  So I ask:

Can students critique the situation, defend their position, justify their reasoning, or rationalize their choice by answering 5 questions that have only one right answer?

Sometimes we push to increase rigor, or use the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, by including some of the higher level verbs like evaluate, critique, argue, produce, or invent, but then we ask students to do this by completing questions that converge to only one correct answer (convergent questions).   Let’s take that objective again:

After lecture and notes, evaluate the how the condition of post-WWI Germany contributed to the rise of a dictator by accurately completing (at least 4/5) multiple choice questions.

We can revise this to become aligned in one of two ways.  We can:

1.  Alter the behavior.  We can measure the students’ ability to recall, recount, identify, or select through the use of convergent questions (one right answer).  Or,

2.  We can alter the task/product.  We can measure the students’ ability to evaluate by requiring a written or composed answer that allows students to critique, argue, and defend their evaluation.

It is imperative that the task or product that is used to provide evidence of learning is actually aligned with the level of learning.

Our Gearing Up For Second Semester Series includes a Mini PD on Objectives over the next 4 weeks.  Today’s resources include a Task Tasting Menu that offers multiple behaviors, conditions, criteria, and tasks as well as a Task Alignment Chart to help ensure you can be measuring behavior and that your behaviors align with your tasks.  If you are interested in receiving the resources accompanying our Objectives PD, just let us know where to send your PD Pack below, then check your inbox.

Get your Objectives PD Pack here!

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About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.