The Arc of Washington County
Independent Support Coordinators
Writing Behavioral Objectives
Lesson 3: Looking At Behavioral Objectives In Detail
Let’s look at the three components of a behavioral objective in a little more detail:
The “behavior” in behavior objective must contain a description that is:
It is the behavior the person will be achieving when the objective is achieved. The behavior
described should pass the “Hey Bill, watch me while I” test.
If it doesn’t make any sense, it probably isn’t a behavior. For example, behaviorally speaking,
does this sentence make any sense: “Hey Bill, watch me while I understand this course.” One gets
quickly confused trying to measure the word “understand.” It is open to multiple measures none
of which is evident from the statement.
When we say that a behavior must be measurable, we mean that there must be a way to document
that it has or has not happened.
In lesson two the Support Coordinator wrote the following behavioral objective:
When prompted by staff, Bob will walk to the Lunch Box Restaurant within ten minutes without
assistance, without breaking any safety rules, for twelve consecutive mornings.
You could measure several different ways Bob went to work as pointed out in lesson 2. However,
what if the Support Coordinator wrote the objective like this:
“Bob will know his way to the Lunch Box Restaurant.”
How would you measure “know?”
When describing behavior avoid using words like “know,” “understand,” “appreciate,” “believe,”
“anticipate,” “dream,” and the like.
Setting the criterion for a behavioral objective is a two-step process. The first step is to determine
the basic criterion for performance of the behavior. For example, in the objective about Bob
walking to the Lunch Box Restaurant, the criteria for any single performance are, in less than
twelve minutes and without breaking any safety rules.
There are many standards by which behavior can be measured. And, more than one criterion can
be used with a single behavior:
Accuracy (How well?) “with at least 90% accuracy”
“with eight out of ten answered correctly”
Speed (How fast?) “within 12 minutes”
“in less than 30 seconds”
Regularity (How often?) “every morning”
“twice a week”
Duration (How long?) “for 15 seconds”
“for four weeks”
Quantity (How many?) “names four of his supervisors (4 is the criterion)
“cleans ten tables
Combinations: “cleans ten tables in no less than 10 minutes” (quantity
“within 15 minutes with no errors” (speed & accuracy)
If the objective appears to missing its criterion, you should assume 100% accuracy is required.
The second step in establishing a criterion is to determine a measurement for consistency and
reliability if necessary. Ask yourself this question, “Am I feeling lucky?” When you are done
reminiscing old Clint Eastwood movies, come back to this lesson and ask yourself this question,
“Is one successful performance of this behavior sufficient evidence that the person can continue
to do it reliably and consistently?
If the answer is “yes,” then a second part of the criterion is not needed.
If the answer is “no,” as it was in the objective about Bob walking to work, then a second part
must be added. It will indicate what evidence you will required before you are satisfied that the
person will consistently and reliably perform the objective without further supervision and
Please note that sometimes at the beginning of teaching individuals, the criterion is set lower than
would be expected in the final performance of a specific behavior. Both the conditions and the
criteria can be changed as a person makes progress on achieving success.
To avoid misinterpretations it is useful to state certain conditions under which the behavior is to
occur. Some examples of the way special conditions may be expressed in behavioral objectives
Using a microwave
When the alarm rings
Conditions typically indicate what supplies, equipment, and assistance the person will be
provided while performing the behavior. They might also indicate the environment or
situation in which the behavior is to occur or may occur, for example, “When walking in the
park,” “If a stranger tries to talk with Mary,” and “In the movie theater.”
There are times when the condition indicates what will not be provided. In our example with
Bob, the behavior will occur “without assistance.”
Lesson 3 Self Test
(Answers are provided at the bottom of this page)1
Each of the following phrases could be a component of a behavioral objective. In the blank
next to each, write the initials for the correct component:
B = Behavior
C = Condition
CR = Criterion
____ 1. Will state home address and phone number.
____ 2. When the fire alarm rings
____ 3. Dials 911
____ 4. Pulls pants zipper all the way up
____ 5. If given a compliment
____ 6. Microwaves a microwavable dinner
____ 7. Using a coin operated laundry machine
____ 8. With no food stuff, paper, or dishes left on the table
____ 9. Every day for four consecutive work weeks
____ 10. Every morning at six a.m.
1. B, 2. C, 3. B, 4. CR, 5. C, 6. B, 7. C, 8. CR, 9. CR, 10. C