An operational definition is critical for success in writing IEP goals, especially behavioral goals. It is also vital to define a target behavior for both a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) and a Behavior Intervention Program (BIP). An operational definition describes the behavior in terms of what you see. It is an explicit definition that two or more disinterested observers would be able to identify. Academic goals should also be operationally defined: you define the academic behavior the child should exhibit.
Operational Definition, behavior: John leaves his assigned seat during instruction without pemission.
Non-operational definition: John wanders around.
Operational Definition, academic: Emily will read a passage of 100 or more words at the 2.2 grade level with 96% accuracy. (Accuracy in reading is understood as number of correctly read words divided by total number of words.)
Non-operational definition: Emily will read at the second grade level. (Whoa! What does that mean? Can answer comprehension questions? What kind of comprehension questions?)