Three Steps to Effective Learning Objectives


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All learning must be focused towards a goal. Without a goal, one has no way of knowing whether they’ve arrived or not. In VET, we call these goals our “Learning Objectives.” They define what we expect our learners to be able to do once the training is over and they are assessed.

For these objectives to be effective, they need to be specific. An objective stating that the learner “understands the concepts of XYZ” isn’t going to work. To be specific, it needs to define which concepts and what level of understanding the learner is going to have for those concepts. Otherwise, there is no way to determine if they have arrived at the objective or not.

There are three things required for an effective learning objective, or we could say that there are three steps in creating your learning objectives:

1 – What will the learner be able to do?

You’ve got to start by determining what actions you’re going to have the learner do in training. Without specific actions that you want them to be able to complete, you have no way of determining the what you are going to train them to do or what training methods you are going to use. Specific tasks should always be defined with verbs (action words), so that you can clearly see what it is that the learner is going to do.

2 – How can you measure their ability to do those tasks?

If you have specific tasks for them to do, then it’s only logical that training hasn’t been completed until they can demonstrate that they are proficient in doing those tasks. Of course, you have to define proficiency as well. Things like doing the task in a certain amount of time, without references, and without error are all important. By making the criterion measureable, you have a standard for the learner to strive for.

3 – How can the leaner demonstrate their ability?

The last step is defining a way for the learner to demonstrate that they have adequately learned the skill and can accomplish the task at the level you determined to measure. Once they can successfully complete the task, fulfilling all the requirements, then the learner can be considered qualified in that task.

With these three steps completed, you’re ready to start developing your training. You will know what it is that you need to train, how you are going to have the learner demonstrate their competence and how you need to measure their success in demonstrating that competence. The training you develop can then be established based upon what will be needed, so that the learner is able to fulfill those requirements.

You can find out more about developing objectives and assessing competence in our Learning Guide. The volume on Design helps you determine how to create learning materials and the volume on Assess helps you understand how to run a fair and equitable assessment for qualifying your learners.

This article was published in Equipped, Fortress Learning’s free monthly magazine for success.