4 Steps for Writing the Perfect Learning Objective
One of the most essential (and challenging!) components to training design is creating the learning objective. If you design training (like I do), then you know it’s one of the first things that stakeholders ask for: “What’s the program objective?” And they don’t want a wimpy objective.
Wimpy objectives use what are considered to be weak verbs. Words such as know, learn, understand, and appreciate are examples of weak verbs. Here are a few examples of poorly written learning objectives:
- Understand the four components of a learning objective.
- Be able to describe the four components of a learning objective.
- Our workshop will provide participants with the opportunity to learn the four components of a learning objective.
Please don’t hate on me for saying it. We all know it. And I’ll admit, upon occasion, I’ve used those weak verbs myself. But there’s a better way.
Now, before I share with you my rule for writing a solid learning objective, I want to have a quick sidebar conversation about the term “learning objectives”. Often, we use the terms learning objective and learning outcome interchangeably. Again, I’ve been guilty of this myself. Traditionally, learning objectives are what participants can expect from the facilitator or trainer.
Learning outcomes are what participants are expected to know or be able to do by the end of the training session. They should be specific and measurable.
In today’s training world, I believe the program description is what participants can expect during the learning event and learning objectives are what participants expect to know by the end of training. So for the purposes of this post, we’re calling them learning objectives.
Back to the rule. I use what is called the A-B-C-D method for developing an objective.
A stands for audience and is fairly self-explanatory. They are the participants.
B represents the behavior or the “thing” that participants need to know or do.
C is for condition, which is the support provided to the learner. It might be a book or job aid.
D refers to degree or required efficiency level.
Here’s an example:
Given a complete copy of the manual on Instructional Systems Design, the participant should be able to accurately describe the four components on a learning objective without error when given at least three opportunities to do so.
In this example:
A (Audience) is “the participant”
B (Behavior) is “accurately describe the four components of a learning objective”
C (Condition) is “Given a complete copy of the manual on Instructional Systems Design”
D (Degree) is “without error when given at least three opportunities to do so.”
I find this four-step process to be a thorough way in developing an objective. Just ask yourself the questions.
1) Who is the intended learner?
2) What do they need to know or do?
3) What kind of support will we provide? And lastly,
4) What is the degree of proficiency they need to have?
So, the next time you have to design training – whether it’s revamping the company’s orientation program or a quick 5-minute refresher for managers on conducting interviews – use the A-B-C-D method to come up with the learning objective. It will really focus your training content and improve your results.