Writing Goals and Objectives



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Writing Goals and Objectives
“If you don’t know where you’re going, you will probably end up someplace else.” (Laurence J. Peter)
“You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there.” (Yogi Berra)
Every encounter between a social worker and a client should be guided by a clear purpose. In ongoing professional relationships, the purpose is usually related to goals and objectives that are established early on. Without clear goals and objectives, the helping process can founder, and deciding whether the relationship has been helpful can be impossible.
Developing clear goals and objectives can significantly facilitate the helping process, but knowing how to develop clear goals and objectives is not an innate skill. The purpose of this lesson is to demonstrate how to write clear goals and objectives. By the time you are through with the lesson, I expect you to be able to do the following:


  1. Identify the difference between a goal and an objective.

  2. Identify the characteristics of well-written objectives.

  3. Identify statements that meet the characteristics of well-written objectives.

  4. Write one goal and two supporting objectives.

Let’s start with the difference between a goal and an objective. The difference is arbitrary, but most authors treat goals as being broader than objectives. A few use the terms in the opposite way, with objectives being broader than goals. And commonly, the words are used interchangeable. In this lesson, we will treat goals as the broader of the two. With that in mind, any goal-like statement could be either a goal or an objective, depending on whether it is more- or less specific than a related statement.


Consider these examples:


  1. Justine will receive a B or better in Advanced Calculus this year.

  2. Justine will receive a B or better in Advanced Calculus this semester.

  3. Justine will receive a B or better in Advanced Calculus this quarter.

  4. Justine will receive a B or better on each test in Advanced Calculus this quarter.

The statements labeled b, c, and d could each be a subset of the statements labeled a, b, and c. Thus, b could be an objective of the goal stated in a, c could be an objective of the goal stated in b, and d could be an objective of the goal stated in c. Also, the statements labeled b, c, and d could all three be objectives of the first goal statement. You can see, then, that an objective is more specific than the goal to which it is related. For the rest of this lesson, we can think of the two as interchangeable, because the characteristics of well-written goals are the same as those of well-written objectives. In fact, one statement of desired outcomes by itself could be called either a goal or an objective because it is only by identifying the relative specificity of two related statements that we can determine which one is broader than the other.

Now let’s explore the characteristics of well-written objectives. Well-written objectives refer to Specific, Timely, Observable, Measurable Outcomes (STOMO). Let’s explore each characteristic in turn.



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