A learning objective describes the intended outcome of the training session expressed in terms of an increase in knowledge, skills or desired behaviour. Establishing clear learning objectives is an important part of the training needs analysis process. It also helps provides the basis for the evaluation of the training.
To write clear learning objectives, it helps to think about where learners are now and where they need to be to perform effectively in their current or future roles.
The gap between where learners are now and where they need to be provides the basis for learning objectives. They should be defined in terms of the results of the training rather than what happens in the training environment. The diagrams in the handout Writing clear learning objectives help to illustrate this.
Objectives provide a benchmark against which the effectiveness of the training can be measured. It becomes difficult to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the training session without having first defined what needs to be achieved. Objectives need to be clear and concise. A vague objective will confuse course participants and not allow for effective evaluation of the learning.
If the training involves a change the way in which something is done, it might require a change in approach or attitude. This aspect is more to do with motivation than the other two. Without good training, people can often remain reluctant to change.
To write a clear attitude or behaviour based objective you need to ask – ‘How will the learner demonstrate that their attitude is appropriate?’ or ‘What change in behaviour will the learner need demonstrate as a result of the training session?”
Key words to describe attitude include: appreciate, accept, help and support. Here are some examples of 'behavioural' based objectives:
Greets and acknowledges the customer when they arrive in the store.
Listens to the other persons opinion without interrupting during an appraisal.
Solicits feedback from others during a team briefing.
Responds empathetically when a team member has a problem.
Points to consider
Many course learning objectives are prefixed with the statement ‘by the end of this training session you will be able to…’. Very often these kinds of statements are unrealistic within the timeframe of the course. It may be more appropriate to say that people should be able to do something by the end of the training period, specifying that this includes a period of time to practice using the learning in the workplace.
Completing this process should help everyone to understand exactly what needs to be achieved by from any training. Having clear objectives also enables you to go on to evaluate the effectiveness of the training at the end of the training period checking whether or not the gap has been bridged.