The Case for Writing Learning Objectives - Training and Development

As we've noted, a great many T&D specialists took M ager at his word—but read beyond his preface. As they put the technology of specifying performance objectives to work, they discovered significant reasons for attempting to define what the learner would do as a result of the training. Among these reasons:

  1. Trainees who know precisely what is expected of them are much more inclined to invest energy in pursuit of the goal—and thus to get there more quickly.
  2. Instructors can better control the stimuli they use on students and can bet terre-respond to the learners' reactions when they have a clear statement of the desired behavior to be produced by all this stimulus response/ re-stimulate/re-respond activity.
  3. Management knows what it is getting for its investment when it sees statements of the outcome.
  4. The bosses of the trainees have a tool for motivating the learning, for communicating expectations. They can establish accountabilities for the learning and for applying it on the job after the training.
  5. The T&D department can more honestly evaluate its own achievements when the T&D manager and instructors have a clear statement about what they are supposed to produce.
  6. Clear statements of learning accomplishments can validate performance standards,or set them if there are none. If standards are set for the first time, the learning objective should be approximately equal to the expected performance standards.
  7. The distribution of printed objectives makes a documented statement to the organization that training means business and that learning is work.

The"work" to be done in training is achieving the objectives—just as work on the job is typing letters, assembling or repairing machines, providing a product or a service.

But writing performance (or "behavioral" or "learning")objectives is hard work. Thus there is predictable resistance. It's probably helpful to look at the arguments against learning objectives—and at the same time to examine questions to raise for each objection. We can learn something from this process. In Table below, the left-hand column you'll find typical objections; the center column poses counter questions; the right-hand column draws some conclusions about the legitimate role of learning objectives in an effective T&D system.

Pro/Con Analysis of Learning Objectives

Pro/Con Analysis of Learning Objectives


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