go to the bother of writing learning objectives for your training
program? Our business sees many programs that simply wear
participants out by being "nine miles long and one inch
thick" with little opportunity to engage learners and
practice skills and in the end serving no useful purpose for
the organization paying for the program. These programs have
a heavy emphasis on what needs to be "taught" with
little regard to what participants will need to be able to
do when they get back to their job. What is missed in a lot
of cases is a focus on writing effective learning objectives
that are tied to real organizational needs.
is a "learning objective"? What is called a "learning
objective" is variously named "learning outcome"
and "learner objective". Sometimes the term "student"
or "participant" is used in place of "learner".
In any case, a "learning objective" is what the
training participant is intended to have actually learned
at the conclusion of the training program. "Learning"
encapsulates new beliefs, new attitudes and new practical
skills and the unlearning of outmoded beliefs, attitudes and
are the benefits of defining and articulating a well-constructed
learning objectives statement? I see the benefits for your
program as including the following:
can focus more easily on what is important to their actual
objectives form a solid basis for sequencing and chunking
program content and activities.
managers can be assured that training addresses actual organizational
objectives determine the relevance of program design features
and content, allowing trainers to weed out easily what are
just peripheral sideshows.
can better focus on the key deliverables of the training
program, without being too sidetracked to the detriment
of the program.
objectives allow learner tests to be checked for relevance
writing of well-specified learning objectives plays a central
role in any training program. Formulating and documenting
such objectives serves to guide the activities of all of the
people involved in its development and delivery; course designers
and developers, participants' managers, trainers and the learners
Learning Objectives Process
do you write effective learning objectives? As with all good
outcomes, I see the trick as following the right process.
Effective training program needs analysis and high-level design
consists of four basic steps. These four steps are:
Content, Delivery Mode and Schedule
first step involves working with client managers to determine
the organization's purpose for the training. This purpose
should be stated in organizational terms and not in training
terms. In Step 2, the organizational unit's objectives are
expanded in order to clarify what it is employees will need
to be able to do following the training for the organizational
unit to be able to achieve its stated objectives. The behavior
statements documented in Step 2 are then converted into the
language of training in Step 3. Step 3 culminates in a document
specifying behavior based learning outcomes for the program.
In the following Step 4, the designer determines the basic
course design and delivery parameters.
1: Identify Organizational Unit Objectives
this first step, determine clearly who are your clients (CEO,
department manager, project manager, etc). Review the appropriate
organizational documents (strategic, project and operational
plans, etc) and conduct joint meetings with your clients.
Ensure that the objectives agreed with your clients are SMART
objectives; that is, that they are
Step 2: Determine
this next step, determine what behaviors participants must
demonstrate back in the workplace following the training for
the organization's objectives to be achieved. To do this effectively,
ensure that your behavior statements:
directly linked to the organization's objective,
active verbs, and
to actions that are publicly observable.
stay in touch with reality, gather a cross section of stakeholders
to thrash out what behaviors are really required. At the least,
invite client managers, subject matter experts and prospective
training participants. At this stage, you will need to work
hard to make sure that stakeholders stick with what participants
are required to do back on the job, and not what they will
need to know.
3: Write Learning Objectives
now that you and the organization are clear on business objectives
and workplace behaviors are you ready to actually write the
learning objectives. Translate the behavior statements formulated
in the previous step into learning objective statements of
At the conclusion of XYZ program, participants should be able
sure that the learning objectives are learner centered and
not centered on what the trainer or program will do or provide
add the standard to which training participants are expected
to perform back on the job. A racing car driver, for example,
is expected to drive at a higher skill level than an ordinary
road user. Also now add the working environment that the participants
are expected to perform within and their available resources
back on the job. Will they work autonomously or within a team?
Will they have access to user manuals, or will they be expected
to remember the process steps?
now constitute the terminal learning objectives - the highest-level
outcomes specified for the entire training program. Many of
your programs will span several modules or sessions. For each
of these discrete components, now formulate enabling learning
objectives. To do this, think about what it is the training
participant will need to learn to be able to satisfy each
For each enabling learning
objective, make sure you consider each of Bloom's three learning
includes knowledge, beliefs and reasoning,
includes values, feelings, attitudes and motivation, and
includes physical movement and co-ordination.
Once again, make sure that
you use active verbs to describe the outcomes. By writing
learning objectives that are both meaningful and practical,
you will enhance your credibility with your clients and improve
your effectiveness as a training designer.
Business Performance Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Vicki Heath is the Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd,
a company providing practical online information and resources.
Her company's guides, tools and templates assist organizations
engage and develop people, manage organizational change and
improve project delivery. Download the free introductory chapter
to Writing Learning Outcomes (2nd Edition) at www.businessperform.com.
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