Though commonly used, “Learning Objectives” is misleading. People engage and take action, not “learning.” People complete the learning content. People choose to apply the learning to their work. People help improve business results.
Conversely, well-crafted “Performance Objectives” explain what changes in behavior and skill are expected as the result of having completed the learning content “by when.” Performance objectives inform the design, development, learner support, and evaluation plans—based on the data gathered in the needs assessment process.
In 1956, Benjamin Bloom and his colleagues crafted what later became known as Bloom’s Taxonomy. It features a set of three models that classify educational objectives into three domains: Affective, Cognitive, and Sensory. Each of the domains is further classified to establish what the learners should be able to do, as the result of having completed the learning content.
Behavior change takes time to be fully realized in the work environment. Therefore, “by when” should be explained using realistic increments of time, in phases or stages that align with expectations on the job.
TIPS TO GET STARTED
- Use action-oriented, measurable language that guides successful completion of the content.
- Ensure each performance objective aligns with the stated business need.
- Each objective should define exactly what the learners are to be able to do, as the result of having completed the learning content (by when).
- Learners who complete the learning content will be able to complete the changes to their work environment within the first 10 days.
- As the result of having completed the learning content, learners will be able to complete and be evaluated on skill A and skill B after 30 days.
- After six months, supervisors will present various work scenarios to evaluate each learner’s level of proficiency with skills A-C.
- Provide supervisors with coaching guidelines to evaluate each learner fairly. It is important that they provide clear and consistent coaching to derive the business results expected.
Crafting performance objectives takes practice. Spend the time doing that practice. Write many. Then refine them. It is important that they are clear, measurable, and include “by when.” Ask others to critique them, including the key stakeholders and subject matter experts, to ensure the performance objectives align with the business need and results of the needs assessment.
Dawn J. Mahoney, CPTD, owns Learning in The White Space LLC, a freelance talent development (“training”) and instructional design consultancy. She is passionate about developing people through better training, better instructional design, and better dialog. E-mail her at: firstname.lastname@example.org