Learning objectives have also been called performance objectives and behavioral objectives. Whatever the terminology, objectives must be clearly defined.
An objective is a precise goal stated in measurable quantitative or qualitative terms. It is of little use to you in designing a course if vague, woolly terminology is used in defining the objectives.
There are three simple rules to help you define and write down your objectives to enable you to plan your course:
1. What can you reasonably expect your students to be able to do, know or think by the end of the course? If you start from the end product or final performance that is expected, it is much easier to plan the first steps.
2. Analyze this final performance into the three basic types of learning— knowledge, skills and attitude change. The relative importance of the three types will vary, but they are usually present in differing degrees. All courses have a knowledge (cognitive) content. All teachers are in the business of attitude change (affective learning) — whether it be merely changing the students’ attitudes to a learning process—and the amount of skill acquisition will vary according to the course.
3. Be specific in the words you use. It will help you if you avoid vague words such as ‘knowledge’, ‘show’, ‘understand’, ‘appreciate’ and use words such as ‘list’, ‘identify’, ‘use’, ‘state’, ‘compare’, ‘define’.
Determining the Content
Once the objectives have been decided, it is helpful to draft a course outline of the content needed to provide the delegates with the skills, knowledge and attitudes identified in the objectives. These topics should be arranged in a teaching/learning sequence.
The next stage is to use the objectives and content outline to develop a course of study. The course of study should:
• meet the specific and general objectives of the course;
• cover the main topics with supporting detail arranged in a teaching/ learning sequence;
• contain suggestions as to the most effective and efficient ways of presenting the material;
• suggest ways in which your delegates’ learning can be reinforced by practical experience;
• state or consider the range of teaching aids or media needed to present or assist the presentation of material;
• consider ways of evaluating the progress of the individual or group against objectives.
It is always helpful to discuss your thoughts or ideas with others, especially those with more experience. This should help you check that you have made no glaring omissions and can help you crystallize your own thoughts and ideas.