Learning Objectives: Commencing with End in Mind

By | October 11, 2013

Learning ought to be a continuous process to stay up with the latest trends. It is not only restricted to the academic lot but includes all who wish to grow. Learning can be in the form of classroom learning, e-learning, by way of actually doing it. No matter what method of learning it is, it will always come with an objective that must be achieved at the end of it. A learning objective is a statement of expected results from a learning session or training module. It can take the form of a list enumerating what the learner is expected to achieve or accomplish after undergoing the learning module.

Learning objectives must be written clearly in the form of learning outcomes. Moreover, these objectives must be measurable or quantifiable. They must aim to elicit the desired behavior from the learner and also help the instructor to make sure that learning took place as planned. No organization would spend money on a learning program that fails to achieve the learning objectives and serves no purpose. Planning of learning objectives can help the organization reap various benefits, as discussed below.

 Advantages of Learning Objectives

  • Learning objectives help in focusing on focus learning areas for better performance.
  • These objectives aid the course developers and trainers in course planning and organizing a course into logical modules.
  • Learning objectives help the instructors to customize the learning material as per the requirement.
  • They allow establishing a relation between the content and the assessments, according to the learning theories.
  • They make learners aware about the course they will go through and what is expected from them upon its completion.
  • They eventually serve as a basis for appraising the performance of not only the learner but also of the instructor or the effectiveness of the learning program.

The above-mentioned advantages clearly emphasize on the need of having the learning objectives in place, with utmost attention and prudence. Therefore, while planning, it must be ensured that the objectives qualify on SMART parameters. SMART is an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time Bound

Setting SMART learning objectives will make the training or learning modules more effective, practical, and relevant. It is noteworthy that straying away from the clearly-written learning objectives may render your learning efforts a futile exercise.

Learning Theories

There are various theories used for creation of effective learning objectives. Some of commonly known theories include the Bloom’s Taxonomy, Simpson’s Taxonomy of the Psychomotor Domain and Harrow’s Taxonomy of Psychomotor Domain. Among these, Bloom’s Taxonomy is widely used to create effective learning objectives. Developed by Benjamin S. Bloom, the theory covers three domains which are to be followed during the learning program. The categories covered are as follows:

  • Cognitive Domain (intellectual competence i.e. knowledge)
  • Affective Domain (behaviour,  feelings, attitude)
  • Psychomotor Domain (physical or manual set of skills)

The domains are explained as:

  1. Cognitive Domain: Under cognitive category, Bloom has divided it into six stages covering lowest to highest form of cognitive learning. The six levels covered under it are as follows.
    • Knowledge: It involves understanding, memorizing, or simply recalling information shared by the facilitators or instructors.
    • Comprehension: This stage is characterized by profound understanding of the concepts, ideas or information imparted by the trainer, instructor, or a facilitator. The learner—after proper grasp of the concepts—is able to come up with the theories in his own words.
    • Application: In this level, the learner is able to put his knowledge to practical use. It involves practical application of the knowledge
    • Analysis: This level lands the learner into analysis mode where he breaks down the information and concepts learnt in the previous stages. He is able to analyze and draw logical conclusions.
    • Synthesis: In this phase, on the basis of the learning process, the learner is able to combine the pieces of knowledge, ideas, and information in a coherent manner. He is equipped to come up with his own set of innovations and creative ideas on various topics.Evaluation: At this stage, both the learners and instructors can easily evaluate and appraise the performance. Critical feedback is an important component in the entire process for improving the end result.
  2. Affective Domain: It is a vital factor in the theory of Bloom’s Taxonomy. This domain relates to the emotional well-being of the learner. It takes into account the feelings, emotions and attitudes of the learners. It aims to boost confidence and self-esteem of the learner.
  3. Psychomotor Domain: This category includes physical well-being of the learner to ensure active participation. It focuses on the use of one’s own hands or equipment to find the answers or solutions.

Of all the above mentioned domains, it is primarily the cognitive domain that is considered while formulating learning objectives. You can use Bloom’s Taxonomy to make the learning process more comprehensive and the result of it more wholesome.

Also Read: How to Create Learning Objectives