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Write performance goals

“What are performance goals?”

“How do performance goals impact the instructional design process?”

“How should designers write performance goals?”

“What are SMART goals and how do they relate to performance goals?”


This lesson explores defining and writing performance goals and identifying desired proficiency levels. By following these guidelines, learning designers can know what high-quality performance goals are, how to write them, and how to identify desired levels of proficiency that enhance the learning experience.


Through this lesson, you should be able to write performance goals that define target behaviors, conditions, and criteria.



What are performance goals?


Performance goals are statements that describe expected outcomes or behaviors a learner should demonstrate after completing a learning experience. These goals are designed to guide the instructional design process and provide a clear focus for both the instructional designer and the learner. By articulating the desired behaviors or outcomes, performance goals help shape the content, activities, and assessments within a learning experience.


How do performance goals impact the instructional design process?


Performance goals have a significant impact on the instructional design process. They serve as a guiding force and provide a clear direction for instructional designers in creating effective learning experiences. Consider the following examples:

  • Focus and alignment: Performance goals help instructional designers establish a clear focus and ensure alignment throughout the design process. By defining the specific behaviors or outcomes learners are expected to demonstrate, performance goals guide the selection of appropriate content, instructional strategies, and assessment methods. They act as a compass, ensuring that all design decisions are purposeful and directly contribute to achieving the desired goals.

  • Content selection and organization: Performance goals influence the selection and organization of content within a learning experience. They help instructional designers determine what knowledge, skills, or concepts are essential for learners to achieve the desired outcomes. Performance goals ensure that the content is relevant, targeted, and aligned with the specific behaviors or outcomes outlined in the goals.

  • Instructional strategy selection: Performance goals play a crucial role in selecting appropriate instructional strategies. The goals inform instructional designers about the desired learner behaviors, allowing them to choose instructional methods that effectively facilitate the acquisition and application of those behaviors. Performance goals influence decisions regarding lectures, demonstrations, simulations, case studies, group work, or any other instructional approach that supports the achievement of the stated goals.

  • Assessment design: Performance goals guide the design of assessments that align with the desired outcomes. They inform the creation of assessment methods, such as tests, projects, simulations, or portfolios, that accurately evaluate learners' attainment of the desired behaviors or outcomes. Performance goals provide the criteria against which learners' performance is measured, ensuring that assessments are valid and reliable.

  • Learner engagement and motivation: Performance goals play a crucial role in learner engagement and motivation. Clear and meaningful goals provide learners with a sense of purpose and direction, making the learning experience more relevant and valuable to them. Well-crafted performance goals challenge learners while also being achievable, fostering motivation and a sense of accomplishment as they progress towards their goals.

  • Evaluation and continuous improvement: Performance goals enable the evaluation of learners' progress and the effectiveness of the instructional design process. By comparing learners' performance against the established goals, instructional designers can assess the success of the learning experience and identify areas for improvement. Performance goals provide a basis for data-driven decision-making and continuous refinement of instructional design strategies.


How should designers write performance goals?


To effectively write performance goals, it's important to understand the key components that make them comprehensive and actionable. A well-defined performance goal consists of three main elements:

  1. Target behavior: The target behavior represents the specific action or skill that the learner is expected to demonstrate. It should be clearly defined and observable, allowing for an accurate assessment of whether the behavior has been achieved. For example, instead of a vague goal like "improve communication skills," a more specific target behavior could be "deliver a 5-minute persuasive presentation without relying on notes."

  2. Conditions: Conditions specify the circumstances or context in which the target behavior should be demonstrated. They provide additional information about the setting, resources, or constraints that may impact the performance. Conditions help ensure that the goal is applicable to real-world situations. For instance, a condition could be "in a team meeting with three or more participants" or "using a specific software application."

  3. Criteria: Criteria establish the standards or benchmarks that determine successful achievement of the performance goal. They outline the specific requirements or levels of proficiency expected from the learner. Criteria can be based on accuracy, speed, quality, or any other relevant metric. For example, criteria might include "demonstrate at least 90% accuracy in solving mathematical equations" or "write a persuasive essay with a minimum of 500 words."

By including these three components in performance goals, instructional designers provide clarity and specificity, ensuring that both the learner and the evaluator have a shared understanding of what needs to be accomplished.


For instance, consider the following scenario:

  • Meet Sarah, an instructional designer working on a training program for customer service representatives. She understands the importance of setting clear performance goals to guide the design of her learning experience. Let's see how she applies the three components of performance goals.


By incorporating these three components into her performance goal, Sarah ensures that the customer service representatives have a clear understanding of what is expected from them. The target behavior focuses on the specific skills they need to develop, the conditions provide context for the interactions they will encounter, and the criteria establish the standards for successful achievement.

With this performance goal in place, Sarah can now design learning activities and assessments that align with the desired outcomes. She plans to incorporate role-playing scenarios, simulations, and feedback sessions to provide practice and refine the customer service representatives' skills in handling difficult interactions effectively.


Remember, performance goals serve as a roadmap for designing effective learning experiences and measuring learner achievement. In the next section, we will explore the importance of performance goals in the instructional design process and how they contribute to successful learning outcomes.


What are SMART goals and how do they relate to performance goals?


The concept of SMART goals is highly applicable to writing performance goals. In fact, the SMART framework can serve as a valuable guideline for crafting effective and meaningful performance goals. Here's how each element of SMART goals relates to writing performance goals:

  • Specific: When writing performance goals, it is important to be specific about the desired behaviors or outcomes that the learner should demonstrate. Clearly defining the target behavior ensures that both the instructional designer and the learner have a shared understanding of what needs to be accomplished.

  • Measurable: Performance goals should include measurable criteria or indicators that allow for objective evaluation. By incorporating measurable elements into the goals, instructional designers can design assessments and track progress to determine whether the desired behaviors or outcomes have been achieved.

  • Achievable: Performance goals should be realistic and attainable within the given context. It is crucial to consider the learners' abilities, resources, and constraints when setting performance goals. Unrealistic or overly challenging goals can lead to frustration and demotivation, while achievable goals inspire learners to strive for improvement.

  • Relevant: Performance goals should be directly aligned with the overall objectives and priorities of the instructional program or organization. They should be relevant to the learners' needs, interests, and professional contexts. Relevant performance goals ensure that the acquired skills or knowledge have practical value and are applicable to the learners' roles or career aspirations.

  • Time-bound: Performance goals should have a specific timeframe or deadline for completion. By setting a timeframe, instructional designers provide a sense of urgency and create a clear endpoint for assessing progress. Time-bound goals help learners stay focused, prioritize their efforts, and work towards achieving the desired behaviors or outcomes within a defined period.


By incorporating the SMART framework into the process of writing performance goals, instructional designers can create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. This enhances the effectiveness of the instructional design process, facilitates accurate assessment, and increases the likelihood of successful achievement of the desired behaviors or outcomes.


For instance, consider the scenario below:

  • Meet James, an instructional designer working for a technology company. He is tasked with developing a training program to enhance the coding skills of software developers in his organization. James understands the importance of setting performance goals using the SMART framework. Let's see how he applies the SMART elements to craft effective performance goals.



By following the SMART framework, James has created performance goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These goals provide clear expectations for the developers and serve as a roadmap for designing the training program. James plans to incorporate coding exercises, code reviews, and assessments aligned with the SMART goals to track progress and ensure the developers' success in achieving the desired coding proficiency.


Summary and next steps


In this lesson, we explored the importance of writing performance goals and how they contribute to the instructional design process. Performance goals are specific statements that describe the expected outcomes or behaviors a learner should demonstrate. By following the SMART framework, instructional designers can create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Specific goals provide clarity, measurable goals enable objective evaluation, achievable goals foster motivation, relevant goals align with learners' needs, and time-bound goals create a sense of urgency. Well-crafted performance goals serve as a roadmap for designing effective learning experiences and measuring learner achievement. They guide the selection of appropriate instructional strategies, materials, and assessments, ensuring alignment and success.


Now that you are familiar with performance goals and proficiency levels, continue to the next lesson in LXD Factory’s Analyze learning path: Develop a learner journey map.

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