Using Objectives in Teaching


Boyd K. Packer
“From the book Teach Ye Diligently by Elder Boyd K. Packer. Copyright 1975 Deseret Book. Used by permission.”

Teachers are brokers of time. They act as brokers assisting large groups of students to invest time wisely. They are charged with the responsibility of providing each student with dividends worthy of his investment.

In acting as the broker for someone else’s time, consider the following:

A careful audit of the use of time is always appropriate. Consciously determine what you expect to accomplish with the time. In other words, have an objective.

Carefully judge what ideas or concepts the students will receive as dividends for time spent. Students usually retain concepts and principles; they seldom retain facts.

Select from the many facts available sufficient to illuminate your ideas. Choose only enough facts to convey the ideas, but not so many as to cover them up.

Begin efficiently in Church classes. A short, impressive devotional is time wisely spent to prepare the mind of the student. It must be followed immediately with some productive action.

Determine what will be gained if you monopolize all of the time. Is it possible that the wisest teacher is one who allots to the students a large portion of the time and assists them in spending it wisely?

Be conscious of time during the lesson presentation. Make regular, systematic progress through the lesson, the unit, and the course.

Double benefits come to the alert, efficient classroom manager in the form of impressed, well-disciplined students. Remember that students, like anyone else, are reluctant to follow a disorganized teacher who rambles, a waster of time.

Punctuality is an essential trait of the teacher. It is a foundation, not an embellishment.

One of the most effective techniques we can use in classroom control is to convey to the student the impression that we consider his time to be valuable. Five minutes per class period spent in calling the roll can total 14 hours and 10 minutes for the average school year. The efficient teacher can easily reduce this time to an hour and 30 minutes, substantially less, if he calls a student assistant. Roll calling, passing out papers, late beginnings, needless clerical maneuvers—all probably rob the average class of fully 20 percent of its instructional time, more hours indeed than the full time scheduled for many college courses. A Sunday School teacher may spend something over four hours each year in calling the roll …

Lesson Preparation

The lessons of the gospel are essentially lessons of attitude and behavior. Facts are merely tools or equipment necessary to establish meanings.

To manage the time of many individuals in a classroom with proficiency requires much preparation time for the teacher. The facts of the lesson constitute the mechanical framework and are learned through common study.

A finer preparation, the “finish” preparation, may always be done during the time you are doing other things. While doing manual work, while traveling, during those all-too-often wasted moments of waiting, the resourceful teacher is preparing not only tomorrow’s lesson, but also making general preparations for many future lessons through observation of nature and of life and through prayer.

Remember, the Savior frequently prayed and relied upon meditation and observation, as indicated in his parables and other teachings.

Great teachers constantly employ their time wisely. An inspiring teacher confessed, when complimented on the marvelous knowledge of literature that embellished his lessons, that he had memorized most of it while guiding a plow. Another who seemed to have an endless repertory of illustrations and stories admitted that almost all of them had been gained during the time he was doing something else.

The scriptural injunction to “treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85) has much significance for teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let your mind find constant employment in observation, in meditation, in prayer; then let your hand always be near a pencil and paper to record the essentials of such preparation before they vanish as quickly and completely as time itself. (Chapter 30, “Teachers The Treasures of Time”, pp. 216–220).

In teaching, we have a specific “somewhere” to get to, and there must be a plan. We must give careful attention to objectives. Fortunately, much is done in preparing lesson materials in the Church. The objectives are carefully considered, and the plans are carefully organized so that with reasonable attention to the lesson manual, one can formulate objectives.

The Overview

I have always thought it helpful to the student to have an overview of the entire course or of the subject, then the teacher can go back and fill in the details and a lot more will be taught …

The students then know where they are going and will be collecting information along the way. The class will be much more meaningful to them. They will, in other words, have an objective in mind …

Let Them See the Plan

If I were a contractor building an office building or a shopping center, I would make very certain that all the men who worked on it saw a copy of the plans. Perhaps some of the detailed plans and specifications wouldn’t be interesting to anyone but the specialized worker. I would nevertheless want everyone to see a sketch of the building so they would know what it was going to look like. Then they would know at least a little bit about how their work fitted into the whole …

Definite Objectives

A wise teacher, in preparing any lesson, will have definite objectives in mind. He will decide beforehand what he wants to teach and why he wants to teach it. For instance, a Church history lesson on the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the succession of Brigham Young to be president of the Church can be taught without having any noticeable application to the life of the student. If the teacher has established definite objectives, however, he can make the lesson meaningful to his students.

It is important that the lessons be likened unto ourselves.

Wherefore I spoke unto them, saying: Hear ye the words of the prophet, ye who are a remnant of the house of Israel, a branch who have been broken off; hear ye the words of the prophet, which were written unto all the house of Israel, and liken them unto yourselves, that ye may have hope as well as your brethren from whom ye have been broken off; for after this manner has the prophet written. (1 Ne. 19:24. Italics added.)

So What?

Unless the message is likened unto ourselves, young people, particularly, may not see much meaning in it. For example, young people often have difficulty seeing much relationship between things that happened in Old or New Testament times or in Church history and the here and now. If the lesson is taught using the likening technique, they can more readily see the application to their lives.

One teacher had a test that he used in preparing each lesson. He would imagine in his mind one of his students saying, “So what? How does it apply to me?” Then he would find some explanation as to why the teaching or the lesson was pertinent to the present time. It changed both his preparation and his presentation.

If we can bridge the past to the present, the lives of young people can be changed for the good.

There is value to a teacher—whether it be in a class, the family, a sermon, or a talk—in writing an objective with the following little formula.

First determine what you want to teach and then add:

_____________ in order that _____________

In the blank space, write something that you want the class members to do about what you told them.

For instance, suppose you are teaching teenage girls and the lesson is on the restoration of the priesthood. The formula could be filled in something like this:

Lesson title: The Restoration of the Priesthood

Objectives: To show that the priesthood was restored by heavenly messengers with authority

In order that: The girls will encourage the young men with whom they are associating to place regular attendance at priesthood meeting high on their list of priorities.

If you have thought about this, you will say different things in class than you would otherwise. You will have something that the girls can do to implement the message of the lesson.

This brings us to the here and now. In the class you are going to mention something about the young men with whom the girls are associating. You will discuss how a young woman can encourage a young man to attend priesthood meeting. Real-life circumstances and examples that exist in their lives today can be brought into the lesson, not just history.

On the other hand, a teacher might follow the lesson manual and get the historical facts correct, and still have the young sisters sitting in class with “what does that matter to me?” complacency. If you add “IN ORDER THAT” to your lesson, somewhere in the discussion you’re going to mention things of interest to the students … it is useful for a teacher to begin in the world with the students and then lead them carefully to the brow of a hill where he can point them to the worlds beyond.

In 1938 … President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., spoke on the subject “The Charted Course of the Church in Education.” He set forth, in an almost scriptural statement, the objectives of those who teach in the Church.

“The Church is the organized Priesthood of God; the Priesthood can exist without the Church, but the Church cannot exist without the Priesthood. The mission of the Church is first, to teach, encourage, assist, and protect the individual member in his striving to live the perfect life, temporally and spiritually, as laid down in the Gospel, ‘Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect,’ (Matt. 5:48) said the Master; secondly, the Church is to maintain, teach, encourage, and protect, temporally and spiritually, the membership as a group in its living of the Gospel; thirdly, the Church is militantly to proclaim the truth, calling upon all men to repent, and to live in obedience to the Gospel, ‘for every knee must bow and every tongue confess.’ (D&C 88:104.)

“In all this, there are for the Church and for each and all of its members, two prime things which may not be overlooked, forgotten, shaded, or discarded:

“First: That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, the Creator of the world, the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice for the sins of the world, the Atoner for Adam’s transgression; that He was crucified; that His spirit left His body; that He died; that He was laid away in the tomb; that on the third day, His spirit was reunited with His Body, which again became a living being; that He was raised from the tomb a resurrected being, a perfect Being, the First Fruits of the Resurrection; that He later ascended to the Father; and that because of His death and by and through His resurrection, every man born into the world since the beginning will be likewise literally resurrected. This doctrine is as old as the world. Job declared: ‘And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.’ (Job 19:26, 27.)

“The resurrected body is a body of flesh and bones and spirit, and Job was uttering a great and everlasting truth. These positive facts, and all other facts necessarily implied therein, must all be honestly believed, in full faith, by every member of the Church.

“The second of the two things to which we must all give full faith is: That the Father and the Son actually and in truth and very deed appeared to the Prophet Joseph in a vision in the woods; that other heavenly visions followed to Joseph and to others; that the Gospel and the holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God were in truth and fact restored to the earth from which they were lost by the apostasy of the Primitive Church; that the Lord again set up His Church, through the agency of Joseph Smith; that the Book of Mormon is just what it professes to be; that to the Prophet came numerous revelations for the guidance, upbuilding, organization, and encouragement of the Church and its members; that the Prophet’s successors, likewise called of God, have received revelations as the needs of the Church have required, and that they will continue to receive revelations as the Church and its members, living the truth they already have, shall stand in need of more; that this is in truth the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that its foundation beliefs are the laws and principles laid down in the Articles of Faith. These facts also, and each of them, together with all things necessarily implied therein or flowing therefrom, must stand, unchanged, unmodified, without dilution, excuse, apology, or avoidance; they may not be explained away or submerged. Without these two great beliefs, the Church would cease to be the Church.

“Any individual who does not accept the fulness of these doctrines as to Jesus of Nazareth or as to the restoration of the Gospel and Holy Priesthood, is not a Latter-day Saint; the hundreds of thousands of faithful, God-fearing men and women who compose the great body of the Church membership do believe these things fully and completely; and they support the Church and its institutions because of this belief.

“I have set out these matters because they are the latitude and longitude of the actual location and position of the Church, both in this world and in eternity. Knowing our true position, we can change our bearings if they need changing; we can lay down anew our true course. And here, we may wisely recall that Paul said:

“‘But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’” (Gal. 1:8.)

This statement by President Clark, speaking for the First Presidency, is to me the position paper for teachers in the Church. Never a year goes by but that I re-read it carefully. Every teacher in the Church should read it in its entirety …

May each of us, as parents and as teachers in the Church, follow the sound counsel and wisdom given here and thus improve our teaching of important gospel principles. (Chapter 18, “Objectives”, pp. 119–122, 125–129.)