2. Entry Behaviour

Entry behaviour includes the prerequisite knowledge, attitudes or skills which the student already possesses that are relevant to the learning task or subject matter and that you may require students to demonstrate before beginning your module. This includes previous education and experience that the student brings to the new learning context. The ultimate goal of the module being to advance the student from where he is (entry behaviour) to where you would like him to be (having mastered the learning objectives or terminal behaviour). (Russell, 1974, p. 65)

A systematic approach for figuring out the prerequisites for your course starts with your objectives (see example below).

Sample Objective: Given the description of a physical situation and the necessary date, the student shall be able to calculate the speed, velocity and/or acceleration described. Acceptable performance includes giving both the exact numerical answer and the proper units.


To determine the entry behaviour, you then ask yourself: What must the student be able to do before he begins this module?

Sample Prerequisites: When given two of the three unknowns, the student should be able to solve simple algebraic manipulations of the following types:

x = y/z
x = y
x = y • z
x = y – z

Given a list of distances, displacements, speeds and velocities, the student should be able to properly identify each. Typical problems would include:

3 ft/sec is a _______
6.8 miles northwest is a __________
8 cm/sec2 is a _________


Helpful Tips

Avoid “there are no prerequisites for this module.” This can mislead a student into thinking he can succeed when, in reality, he may fail to complete the module satisfactorily because of an insufficient entry behaviour. Almost every module will have some prerequisite skills. (Russell, 1974, p. 65)

In a series of modules, like this online modular instruction, the terminal behaviour of the first module is often the entry behaviour for the second module and so on. To see how these modules build on one another, see the Prerequisite section for each of the modules.

You can combine the Pre-test with an entry test to verify that the entry behaviour or prerequisites for a given module can be demonstrated by each student before the start of the module. Since we have followed Russell’s guidelines for constructing criterion test items (Russell, 1974) quite closely, the guidelines for constructing entry tests will be the same.

Further Reflection and Application

With a particular course, workshop, etc. in mind that you will soon be teaching, ask yourself the following questions and write (type) a description of your target audience.

  • Who are the students taking the course?
  • What is the total number of learners per group that will be online at any one time?
  • Where are they located?
  • What previous knowledge or experience do they have?
  • What specific entry skills do they have?
  • What special interests do they have?
  • What general motivation do they have?
  • What special problems or concerns do they have?
  • What will be the consequences of success and failure?
  • What language(s) do they speak or want the instruction in?
  • What time do the participants have available?
  • What is their attitude toward information and communication technologies?

My Target Audience:

Using the same objective you created in a previous module or another one that you will be using for an upcoming course/teaching scenario, answer the following question:

What must the student be able to do before he begins this module?