Stage II of The Training Cycle: Develop Learning Objectives

By Elaine Biech

After you complete the needs assessment, analyze the data, and ascertain the need for training, you develop the objectives for the training. The figure shows that developing objectives is the second stage of The Training Cycle.

Stage II of The Training Cycle: Develop Learning Objectives.
Stage II of The Training Cycle: Develop Learning Objectives.

Learning objectives are written for the learner. You may also choose to write training objectives that are for the design and development of the training. Learning objectives are a requirement. Many trainers do not write training objectives.

Learning objectives are written to specify the performance (knowledge or skill) that is desired after the training has been completed. The following sections spell out the four elements you want to include in your learning objectives.

Specifying exactly what the learner will be able to do

Bloom’s Taxonomy is the hierarchy of learning outcomes. Now we are at the point in The Training Cycle where Bloom’s Taxonomy comes in handy: specifying exactly what the learner will know or be able to do at the end of the training experience.

Do you want the learners to have knowledge about the subject? Comprehension? Be able to apply the information? Analyze or synthesize it? Or do you want them to be able to make judgments about the information.?

Because the goal of most training that you conduct is to improve skills, you most often select verbs from the application column. However, there are other objectives to training programs that may not require application, but merely comprehension. And, of course, there are also times when you want the learner to go beyond application.

The list of verbs associated with the six levels this the table helps you select a verb that fits the level of learning.

Bloom’s Cognitive Domain
Knowledge Comprehension Application Analysis Synthesis Evaluation
Recall information Interpreting information in one’s own words Applying or generalizing knowledge to new situations Breaking knowledge into parts and showing relationships Bringing together parts of knowledge to form a new whole Making judgments based on given criteria
Arrange
Cite
Define
Duplicate
Label
List
Match
Memorize
NameOrder
Outline
Recall
Record
Relate
Repeat
Reproduce
Select
State
Tabulate
Write
Describe
Differentiate
Discuss
Explain
Express
Generalize
Identify
Indicate
Locate
Paraphrase
Recognize
Report
Restate
Review
Select
Sort
Tell
Translate
Apply
Calculate
Choose
Classify
Complete
Compute
Demonstrate
Dramatize
Employ
Illustrate
Interpret
Modify
Operate
Practice
Prepare
Schedule
Sketch
Solve
Use
Analyze
Appraise
Categorize
Compare
Contrast
Criticize
Detect
Diagram
Differentiate
Discriminate
Examine
Experiment
Group
Inventory
Question
Subdivide
Summarize
Test
Arrange
Assemble
Collect
Combine
Compile
Compose
Construct
Create
Design
Formulate
Generate
Manage
Organize
Plan
Prepare
Propose
RearrangeSet up
Synthesize
Write
Appraise
Assess
Compare
Conclude
Critique
Defend
Estimate
Evaluate
Grade
Judge
Justify
Measure
Predict
Prescribe
Rank
Rate
Recommend
Score
Select
Support
Validate
Value

Deciding whether you’ve written a good objective

An objective should meet several criteria: It should be specific so that there is no question about what you mean. It should be measurable, meaning you should be able to count it or determine with a distinct yes or no whether it was accomplished. A measurable objective makes evaluation easier.

An objective should be attainable — no pie-in-the-sky statement, yet it should not be so easy to attain that it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. An objective should be relevant to the mission of the organization, to the change that is desired, to achieve the greater goal.

And finally, it should be time bound, meaning: When is the individual expected to achieve the objective? By the end of the training session? Within a month? Objectives should be SMART, as follows:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable, yet a stretch

  • Relevant

  • Time-bound

Getting additional guidance

Use these additional ideas for writing objectives:

  • Be brief and to the point; include only one major item in each objective.

  • Use an observable action verb to describe the expected result. You can see (or hear) “list,” “demonstrate,” and “calculate.” You cannot see someone “remember,” “believe,” or “learn.”

  • Specify a time frame or target date of completion; generally, this occurs at the end of the training session.

  • Specify resource limitations (money, personnel, equipment) as appropriate.

  • Describe the participants’ expected performance.

  • Specify results to be achieved in measurable or observable terms.

  • Choose areas over which you have direct influence or control; don’t write objectives for which your training program has no accountability.

  • Make objectives realistic in terms of what can actually be accomplished in the training as well as in terms of resources you have available to you.

  • Include enough challenge in the objective to make it worth formulating.

  • Indicate the minimum level of acceptable performance.

  • Specify the conditions (if any) under which the action must be performed.

  • Specify degree of success if less than 100 percent is acceptable.

  • Select objectives that are supportive and consistent with overall organization missions and goals.

Using this formula to easily write objectives

A correctly written objective includes four components, sometimes called the ABCDs of a good objective:

  • Audience (who)

  • Behavior (will do what)

  • Condition (by when or some other condition, such as with assistance)

  • Degree (how well, if not 100 percent of the time)

To easily write an objective, fill in the blanks. Use this formula to help you out.

Who will do what, by when, and how well?

_______ will _______, by _______, ________.

Trainers design the training based on the learning objectives. Typically, trainers also post the objectives at the beginning of their sessions. They may word the objectives less clinically and begin them with, “By the end of this training. . . .” If the learners are expected to be able to do the task 100 percent of the time, the trainers may not include it in the objective because it is “assumed.” This is sometimes an organizational preference. Therefore, the objective may be rewritten.

“By the end of this training, you will be able to write learning objectives using the SMART guidelines.”