The Instructor's Use of Objectives - Training and Development

A most useful instrument in the instructor's professional toolkit is the list of learning objectives. We might look at it this way: Instructors need some way to focus the attention of all learners on a single concept. What better focus can you have than the goals of the learning? How do instructors bring this about?

At the very first class session, peoples it down with a list of the course objectives.

They discuss the meaning, the impact,and the importance of applying each one. Some instructors go further and emphasize the objectives through visual aids. Such visual statements may:

  1. Help control discussions. When students see the printed words, they tend to filter their comments by asking,"Is it appropriate?" A visual reminder by the learning objectives helps them make a good decision.
  2. Help smooth transitions from one segment to another by providing a "road map" of the total course design.
  3. Increase the value of"process" sessions by causing learners to ask themselves what they have achieved and what remains for them to learn.
  4. Give new focus and emphasis to the goals, reminding learners why they are in the training.

If there have been pre-training conversations between students and their immediate "boss" about the learning objectives, the instructor can:

  1. mention that, or
  2. refer back to written notices about the program, which ought always to feature the learning objectives prominently.

The objectives are useful in other ways as the program continues. They can serve as a reasonable control when students wander from the subject. A discreet inquiry about how the comment or activity contributes toward the goal will either bring learners back to a profitable path—or show the instructor some exciting new dimension of the learning experience.When learners cannot see the relevance of class activity, instructors can help establish that relevance by analysis of the objectives. When giving themselves feedback about their own progress, the only real reference point learners have is comparing their present ability to the ultimate objectives.

At the end of the program, a list of objectives is most useful. In quiet, introspective moments, all learners can evaluate their own achievements for each objective. A group discussion can refocus on the desired behaviors and how they can be applied on the job. Action planning that relates to learning objectives has sharper direction than mere general resolutions to "do good things."

Let's summarize: Because the objectives are so useful, professional instructors use them as a technical instrument. They insist on pre-training communications at which learners (and, one hopes, their bosses) set expectations by analyzing the objectives. They hold early discussions and use the objectives to refine expectations and to clarify questions; they revisit the objectives at intermediate "Quaker Meetings," open discussions in which learners can explain how they feel about the program and their progress. They summarize at the end by looking at the objectives as a way to check the learners' sense of achievement, to double-check that all material has been covered and all goals met, and as a way to focus on on-the-job application.

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