The terms goal and aim are used interchangeably to refer to a description of the general purposes of a curriculum and objective to refer to a more specific and concrete description of purposes.
- An aim refers to a statement of a general change that a program seeks to bring about in learners. The purposes of aim statements are:
- to provide a clear definition of the purposes of a program
- to provide guidelines for teachers, learners, and materials writers
- to help provide a focus for instruction
- to describe important and realizable changes in learning
- Aims statements reflect the ideology of the curriculum and show how the curriculum will seek to realize it (Renandya and Richards 2002).
- The following are examples of aim statements from different kinds of language programs (Renandya and Richards, 2002).
A Business English Course:
- to develop basic communication skills for use in business contexts.
- to learn how to participate in casual conversation with other employees in a workplace
- to learn how to write effective business letters
A Course for Hotel Employees:
- to develop the communication skills needed to answer telephone calls in a hotel
- to deal with guest inquiries and complains
- to explain and clarify charges on a guest’s bill
Aim statements are generally derived from information gathered during a needs analysis. For example, the following areas of difficulty were some of those identified for non-English background students studying in the English-medium universities:
- understanding lectures
- participating in seminars
- taking notes during lectures
- reading at an adequate speed to be able to complete reading assignments
- presenting ideas and information in an organized way in a written assignment
In developing aim statements, it is important to describe more than simply the activities that students will take part in. For example, the following are not aims:
- Students will learn about business letter writing in English.
- Students will study listening skills.
- Students will practice composition skills in English.
For these to become aims they need to focus on the changes that will result in the learners. For example:
- Students will learn how to write effective business letters for use in the hotel and tourism industries.
- Students will learn how to listen effectively in conversational interactions and how to develop better listening strategies.
- Students will learn how to communicate information and ideas creatively and effectively through writing.
In order to give a more precise focus to program goals, aims are often accompanied by statements of more specific purposes. These statements are known as objectives or also referred to as instructional objectives or teaching objectives. An objective refers to a statement of specific changes a program seeks to bring about and results from an analysis of the aim into its different components. Objectives generally have the following characteristics (Renandya and Richards, 2002):
- They describe what the aims seek to achieve in terms of smaller units of learning
- They provide a basis for the organization of teaching activities
- They describe learning in terms of observable behaviour or performance
The advantages of describing the aims of a course in terms of objectives are:
- They facilitate planning: once objectives have been agreed on, course planning, materials preparation, textbook selection and related processes can begin.
- They provide measurable outcomes and thus provide accountability: given a set of objectives, the success or failure of a program to teach the objectives can be measured.
- They are prescriptive: they describe how planning should proceed and do away with subjective interpretations and personal opinions.
For example in relation to the activity of “understanding lectures” referred to above, aims and objectives such as the following can be described: Statements of objectives have the following characteristics (Renandya and Richards, 2002):
- Objectives describe a learning outcome. In writing objectives, expressions like will study, will learn about, will prepare students for are avoided since they do not describe the result of learning but rather what students will do during a course. Objectives can generally be described with phrases like will have, will learn how to, will be able to.
- Objectives should be consistent with the curriculum aim. Only objectives that clearly serve to realize an aim should be included. For example, the objective below is unrelated to the curriculum aim
Since the aim relates to writing business letters, an objective in the domain of telephone skills is not consistent with this aim. Either the aim statement should be revised to allow for this objective or the objective should not be included.
- Objectives should be precise. Objectives which are vague and ambiguous are not useful.
This is seen in the following objective for a conversation course.
Students will know how to use useful conversation expressions.
A more precise objective would be: Students will use conversation expressions for greeting people, opening and closing conversations.
- Objectives should be feasible. Objectives should describe outcomes that are attainable in the time available during a course. The following objective is probably not attainable in a 60 hour English course:
Students will be able to follow conversations spoken by native speakers. The following is a more feasible objective: Students will be able to get the gist of short conversations in simple English on topics related to daily life and leisure.