A Manual for Recreation Therapy Students and Entry-Level Professional

Introduction to Writing Goals and Objectives: A Manual for Recreation Therapy Students and Entry-Level Professional

Hinton, Jennifer L

Introduction to Writing Goals and Objectives: A Manual for Recreation Therapy Students and Entry-Level Professionals. Melcher, S. (1999). State College, PA: Venture Publishing, Inc. (Contact the publisher at (814) 234-4561.)

“Which of the following terms describe goals and objectives? a) Easy, b) Quick, c) Fun, d) All of the above-not!” (Melcher, 1999). This quoted text, which is the last item in the manual’s pretest, seems to reflect the anxiety that instructors and supervisors often see when training future recreational therapists to write measurable objectives. Standard principles used in training, including those set forth by Mager (1984), have remained in use over the past several decades. As Melcher notes, however, it seems that many students still struggle with not only the writing skills involved but also with the connection between written objectives and “real world” practice. Melcher’s text is an excellent example of a training tool that has been designed to overcome both these issues. Through a series of explanations and practice sessions, the author attempts to prepare the student, or entry-level practitioner, to use measurable objectives in recreational therapy practice. Melcher begins with an introduction to the manual, outlining what seems to be the main mantra reflected throughout: “Practice, practice, practice . . . .” The introduction is followed by a 10-item, multiple-choice pretest, which is reflective of the content covered in the manual and is repeated verbatim as a post-test at the end of the text. Questions included on the test cover areas such as overt and covert behaviors, conditions and criterion, and the use of wording that is succinct and not open to interpretation.

The next section of the book covers the importance of writing goals and objectives. Melcher stresses the need for solid assessment, as well as the relationship between clear objectives and meeting patient needs. She also includes definitions for goals, objectives, and related terminology. This section explains the rationale for writing measurable, outcome-oriented objectives, including issues related to justification of services. As the need to justify services is a reality in all areas of health care, it is indeed an important topic to address in this book. However, the discussion of the need to justify services tended to overshadow the need to write solid objectives to insure the health of the patient, which was mentioned only briefly after the issues related to justification and reimbursement. Perhaps more emphasis on patient care could be added in this section at the time that the book is updated for a second edition.

Practice sheets are given after the introductory comments. These exercises cover identifying overt and covert words, goal writing, identifying components of objectives, determining the usefulness of goals and objectives, and practice in writing goals followed by related objectives. Each practice exercise is followed by correct answers with accompanying explanations. Each of the exercises is clear and basic, assisting the student in breaking down the components associated with writing useable objectives for his or her clients.

The largest section of the manual offers examples of cases with which the student can practice writing appropriate goals and objectives based on a brief assessment summary. Each of the 10 case studies uses common abbreviations often seen in charts, with an abbreviated glossary given prior to the case (a full glossary of abbreviations is offered in the back of the manual). The student extrapolates the patient’s needs from the assessment summary, and then writes appropriate goals and objectives based on this information. This process may be difficult for some students because students, in particular, are often less able to extrapolate a client’s needs from assessment information compared with writing goals and objectives from already identified needs. Nonetheless, the necessity that students be able to do such is apparent. The instructor may need to help the students make these connections in class before they complete the practice exercises on their own.

As with the previous exercises, Melcher offers possible solutions that might be used with each case. Each of the goals and objectives are clear, and contain the criteria that were outlined earlier in the manual. She follows these examples with a short section called “Step Into my Office,” which briefly examines some “real-life” issues concerning assessing and developing goals and objectives.

An unexpected bonus of this manual is the wonderful review of recommended resources. Instead of just giving a list of materials that one may use, the author explains the contents of each title including for whom and which purposes the material may be most useful. This review is helpful not only for students and rising practitioners, but also for instructors looking for additional materials to meet their students’ needs.

Overall, Melcher has done a very good job of relating the big picture in a small (58 page) book. The manual has a sense of purpose, direction, and completeness. The graphics and examples are appropriate and should be helpful to the student. There are areas where instructor attention is needed to bridge concepts, and I would not recommend the case examples for an introductory course in which students have limited knowledge of disability or assessment. However, the clarity of this book and the exercises contained within it should be a great way to help students develop confidence as they practice, practice, practice.


Mager, R. (1984). Preparing instructional objectives (2nd ed,). Belmont, CA: David S. Lake.

Reviewed by: Jennifer L. Hinton, Ph.D., CTRS, Ohio University, Athens, OH

Copyright National Recreation and Park Association First Quarter 2001

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