How to formulate Learning Objectives and structure your (formal) training

Learning Objectives, why bother?
It is so important, yet people tend to forget them; the basics of creating training and learning materials: Learning Objectives.

This blogpost by Kasper Spiro reminded me again of how often people ‘forget’ to formulate the Learning Objectives before they start developing a training. Why do they forget, while everybody knows they are important, even crucial when it comes to creating training and learning materials that work?

My guess? Because it is just to tempting to start with developing/writing as soon as possible. Especially when you are an expert on the topic. You just write down everything you know and think the learners should know as well.

It’s kind of logical right? Just start developing/writing the training and make sure everything you know is in there. Then the training will be great, because EVERYTHING (!) is in there.

Hmmm… not a good idea.

Why not?

Formulating Learning Objectives are important for, among others, the following reasons:

  • To be able to select and organise course content, and determine appropriate instructional strategies and assessments.
  • To be able to assess if the learners gained the new knowledge and skills you wanted them to learn; did they reach the learning objectives?
  • To be able to assess if the training worked; did the learners reach (all) the learning objectives/goals? (Or do you evaluate a training like this?)
  • To be able to connect learning objectives/goals to company goals; is this training aligned with the company goals?
  • To have learners be able to direct their learning efforts and monitor their own progress; which learning goals did I reach and which should I be working on to complete the training successfully?

Besides that: Learning Objectives make it possible to reduce the content of the training, making it more efficient and effective. Making people learn things they aren’t going to use or just don’t need to know is useless. It is even counterproductive, because it is rather demotivating to spend time on something you are not going to use anyway. And that way there will be less time to spend on knowledge and skills that are important. So teaching people only the stuff they actually need to know to reach the learning objectives (and company goals) is a good idea.

How to create Learning Objectives?
There are several models on creating Learning Objectives, like Bloom’s Taxonomy or Romiszowski Taxonomy. But let’s start simple and just use the following three types of Learning Objectives:

  • Knowledge: what does the learner ‘know’ after following the training?
  • Skills: what is the learner able to ‘do’ after following the training?
  • Attitude: what kind of behaviour will the learner ‘show’ after following the training?

I have attached a template which I often used myself for creating different types of training. Although very basic, it has proven it’s effectiveness and it might be able to help you as well.

Download the Global Design template below (click on the image) and use it as an instrument to structure your training. Just fill in the subjects of the training, the different learning objectives and how you plan to teach about them and eventually assess them.

Feel free to share your experiences with Learning Objectives and the Global Design template by leaving a comment below.

Global Design Template

Global Design Template – or how to formulate Learning Objectives and structure your (formal) training.

Update 4-10-2013
Having trouble formulating learning objectives? Check out this tool created by Arizona State University: the Objectives Builder. The tool helps you to create better learning objectives based on Blooms Taxonomy.