Resources - Education and Training

Developing Learning Goals and Objectives

Narrow the Focus with Objectives

Once the kind of training that is needed has been determined, it is equally important to determine what kind of training is not needed. Employees should be made aware of all the steps involved in a task or procedure, but training should focus on those steps on which improved performance is needed. This avoids unnecessary training and tailors the training to meet the needs of the employees.

Determining what the learner needs to know and do should be developed before the training session. Writing goals and objectives will help make sure your training is appropriate and useful to the learner. Effective goals and objectives help ensure training stays on track so that learners gain the specific knowledge and skills required. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z490.1-2001 guidelines require goals and objectives be written for safety training.

Goals and Objectives: What's the difference?

One of the most important, yet for some, the most difficult activities in the training process is writing clear-cut, competency-based learning objectives that describe what the learner will be able to do at the end of the training session. Some trainers believe goals and objectives are basically the same thing; not so. Let's take a look.

What's a goal?

A goal is nothing more than a wish. We've all stated goals like, "I wish I could lose some weight," from time to time. Goals are appropriate for Level One training because this type of training does not require measurement of observable, measurable outcomes. Goals are normally unnecessary in Level Two technical training because they are insufficient. Level Two training requires written objectives.

There are two basic types of goals: training goals and learning goals.

A training goal is a general statement about what you, as the trainer, want to do. It states how the trainer will achieve the intended outcome of training. Training goals might be stated in an instructor guide, but not in the student workbook or handout . For instance, training goals might look like this:

  • Talk about the company's hazard reporting procedures
  • Introduce students to confined space entry requirements

A learning goal, on the other hand, is a general statement about what the trainer wants each student to know and do. It summarizes what the leaner, not the trainer, will be able to do. Learning goals would be included in the student workbook or handout. For instance:

  • Understand hazard reporting procedures
  • Gain a greater awareness of confined space entry

What's an Objective?

As mentioned earlier, Level Two training requires evaluation of student knowledge and skills at the end of training while in the learning environment. An operational objective is similar, yet much more specific, than a goal. Operational objectives describe time limits, performers, test conditions, behaviors, and performance standards. As with goals, there are two basic types of objectives:

A training objective is a specific statement describing what the trainer is going to do during or immediately after training. For instance, a training objective might state:

  • During the first hour of the training session, the trainer, given a full-face respirator, will discuss and perform each step of the respirator don-doff procedure.
  • By the end of class, the instructor will use a real-world scenario to discuss and present examples for each step in conducting root cause analysis.

A learning objective is a specific statement describe what the learners will know and/or be able to do after training. It describes results, rather than the means of achieving those results. It defines expectations for the learner. Here are some examples:

  • By the end of the class, each student, when given a full-face respirator, will be able to correctly perform all steps of the don-doff procedure.
  • By the end of training, the learner will be able to discuss at least two advantages of conducting incident analysis when asked by the trainer.

Why do we need to write learning objectives?

It's very important that we write learning objectives clearly so that both trainers and learners understand what the learner is expected to do at the end of training. Writing learning objectives is required by ANSI Z490.1 guidelines when hazardous procedures and practices are taught. Virtually all Level Two technical training requires testing. Because employees must be tested, learning objectives are necessary to design specific measures and standards into training. Effective learning objectives also:

  • help the instructor design and select instructional content and procedures
  • help the instructor organize the learner's own efforts and activities
  • help the instructor evaluate or assess the success of instruction

What are the criteria for an effective learning objective?

An effective learning objective describes outcomes in terms of observable, measurable behaviors. They should be based on job data, not on conjecture or existing trainer guides. The objective should specify the knowledge, skills, and abilities (SKAs) that make performing the task possible.

Let's use the following learning objective to get a better idea about the five criteria. The numbers within the objective refer to the related criteria discussed below:

(1) At the end of the training session, (2) given a simulated accident scenario, (3) each employee (4) will list (5) in proper order, all steps of the accident analysis procedure.

Now, Let's take a look at the five criteria of an effective learning objective:

  1. The objective states a time limit.

    Example: "At the end of the training session"

  2. The objective specifies the conditions of performance.

    Example: "given a simulated accident scenario"

    The condition identifies any prerequisite information or experience necessary for the training event. It specifies what tools, working aids, assistance, supervision, and physical environment is given to the learner to perform. It describes the assistance or supervision (if any) the learner will receive to perform.

  3. The objective identifies the performer(s).

    Example: "each employee"

  4. The objective contains one or more action verbs. Example: "will list"
  5. The objective specifies an acceptable standard of performance.

    Establish quantitative and qualitative criteria for acceptable performance. Criteria should describe how well the learner must perform such as:

    • Written exam - complete a multiple choice test in terms of percent correct
    • Oral exam - discuss key elements
    • Skill demonstration - perform steps of a task

    Example: "in proper order, all steps of the accident analysis procedure. "

Try this to develop objectives

James Evans, author of Behavioral Objectives Are No Damn Good, recommends that the trainer work backwards to develop objectives by first developing the performance test, then writing the learning objectives. The following approach outlines this simplified procedure for writing learning objectives.

Step 1: Complete a simulated task analysis

Picture in your mind the job environment, materials, and events so you have an understanding of the job to be performed. (An actual task analysis would be better if it could be done.)

Step 2: Identify performance requirements

Identify the specific things the employee is required to do in order to perform the job in question. These specific "performance items" should be written down in preparation for developing the criterion test.

Step 3: Develop a criterion test

The criterion test should have a direct relationship to the performance requirements of the job. It should also require the actual behavior that we want the learners to be able to perform. If we want them to be able to explain, the criterion test item should ask for an explanation. For instance: If we want them to be able to properly use a respirator, the test should tell them to inspect it, and so on.

In developing a criterion test there are three areas of concern:

  1. What questions do we want the learner to be able to answer, and what are the minimum critical components of an acceptable answer?
  2. What problems do we want the learner to be able to solve, and what are the critical components of an acceptable solution?
  3. What actions or tasks do we want the learner to be able to carry out, and what are the critical components of acceptable action?

Here's a simple acronym to help you remember to include all five criteria in a learning objective:

TPCAS - Time limit - Performer - Condition - Action - Standard

Source: OSHAcademy

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Copyright ©2000-2019 Geigle Safety Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Federal copyright prohibits unauthorized reproduction by any means without permission. Disclaimer: This material is for training purposes only to inform the reader of occupational safety and health best practices and general compliance requirement and is not a substitute for provisions of the OSH Act of 1970 or any governmental regulatory agency. CertiSafety is a division of Geigle Safety Group, Inc., and is not connected or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).