Writing Learning Objectives
In this article, you will learn how to identify and develop adequate learning objectives that describe to your learners what they will be able to do as a result of your training. You will also be given some illustrative examples.
Developing Learning Objectives
Learning objectives are the foundation of effective training. Adult learners expect their training to be directly applicable to their situation. When you develop learning objectives around their business-related needs, you are taking the first step in ensuring that your training matches their expectations.
Learning objectives focus both the trainer and the learner on the achievement of specific results:
1. They direct the trainer toward developing and conducting training that provides the learners with the skills and knowledge they need.
2. They provide the learners with a clear understanding of what they will be expected to do as a result of the training.
Levels of Objectives
Learning objectives are developed at two levels - at the course level and at the lesson level. Course objectives are developed first and state the broad behavior expected of learners at the end of the course. Lesson objectives are subsequently developed; they state specific behaviors required to achieve the course objectives.
“At the end of this course, you will be able to develop a safety training plan geared to the learning needs of adults.”
“At the end of this lesson, you will be able to select appropriate training methods useful in delivering safety training.”
Notice that the narrower lesson objective - to select training methods - is one key element involved in developing a training plan. The steps you will learn in developing lesson objectives apply to developing course objectives as well.
Steps in Developing Learning Objectives
There are two steps you must follow in developing adequate learning objectives. They are:
1. Clarify the tasks to be performed after training.
2. Develop appropriately stated objectives based on those tasks.
Clarifying After-Training Tasks
To clarify after-training tasks, start with the information you developed when you analyzed the training requirement. Pay particular attention to the new or changed behavior expected of the learners as well as the expected benefits your learners will receive. Then list the major tasks the learners will be doing as a result of your training.
Developing Appropriately Stated Objectives
Once you have clarified the after-training tasks, write objectives that describe the task behavior you want the learners to demonstrate during training.
“Conduct an accident investigation.”
“By the end of this training program, learners will be able to list and describe from memory, in their proper sequence, each of the steps used to conduct an accident investigation.”
Three Parts of a Learning Objective
There are three parts of a learning objective:
- Action: The action identifies what the learners must do to demonstrate they have learned. In an objective, the action should be described using an action verb that is specific and observable.
- Condition: The condition identifies what the learners will be given or not given to perform the action. At testing time, the given might include things like equipment, tables, a case study, a job aid, a role play, or a set of data.
- Standard of performance: The standard of performance identifies how well the learners must do to demonstrate they have learned. If a standard is not stated, then 100% accuracy is assumed.
For the example above:
- Action – list the steps to conduct an accident investigation
- Condition – from memory
- Standard of performance – in their proper sequence
NOTE: Sometimes both the conditions and standards are assumed (not stated).
By the end of this training program, learners will be able to:
- Select the proper tools required to repair a heating unit when given a fully equipped toolbox and a heating unit in need of repair.
- Name all the major parts of a SCBA unit, when given a diagram.
- Locate a given topic in the IIPP on the first attempt.
It is important that the learning objectives for your training come as close as possible to the actual behavior the learner will be expected to perform back on the job. When you are describing desired behavior, use words that describe observable behavior. This will come easily when you are writing learning objectives for PHYSICAL SKILLS such as operating a respirator or applying CPR Techniques. When the behavior relates to the learners’ KNOWLEDGE or ATTITUDES, however, you might be tempted to use words like “know,” “understand,” or “appreciate.” These words describe something that is happening inside the learners' minds. In these cases you must write learning objectives that use words that describe the observable behavior that the learners will demonstrate during training.
Appropriates and Inappropriate Words for Writing Learning Objectives
Appropriate Words (Observable Behavior)
Inappropriate Words (Not Observable Behavior)
- be aware of
- be familiar with
Note: The above lists are only samples for you to consider in writing objectives. Whatever word you choose, remember that the critical issue is to clearly communicate the behavior that must be shown by the learner so that both the learner and the trainer know that learning has taken place.
Point of View
Finally, learning objectives should be expressed from the learner’s point of view. You are defining what you want the learner to be able to do as a result of the training, not what you as the trainer want to accomplish. Starting all your objectives with the phrase, “At the end of the training the learners will be able to …,” will help keep this focus in mind.
Did you find these guidelines useful?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Carolyn Fields