Monday, March 16, 2015

Event #2: Informing Learners of Objective

Think about the last training you attended.
If the trainer used Power Point or an equivalent, you probably saw a slide similar to the one below. Yep, those are objectives. Chances are, you don’t even remember the slide because it is usually the most boring of slides in the entire deck. The objectives, however, are one of the most important factors in training. This is precisely why Robert Gagne made “Informing Learners of Objectives” number two in his list of 9 Events of Instruction.

I’ve written about objectives a lot on this blog and for good reason, they are difficult to master on paper and pretty tedious to communicate. A training void of objectives, though, leaves the learner feeling lost.

We traditionally think of objectives as learning outcomes - what the learner is expected to know by the end of training. Objectives as learning outcomes allow you to measure the success of a training. For example, consider the parameters of this scenario:
  • you are training on model reference behaviors
  • one of the stated objectives is that learners will be able to define the stages of the reference interview
  • you cover each objective during training.

If, by the end of training and thereafter, the learner is not able to fully complete the objective, then you know that the training was not completely successful. The 9 Events of Instruction have a step for evaluating performance, so I won’t go into that quite yet, but it is important to point out that you can not measure success if no goals have been stated.

Depending upon the subject matter, goals can be many or few. But the point of learning outcomes is that they should be specific. Vague objectives such as “the learner will know the stages of the reference interview” are hard to measure. The term “know” can mean understanding concepts as much as it can mean the ability to apply concepts. In training, the idea is that learners will apply concepts. With that being said, it is important to have objectives that are straightforward and easily measurable.

Before you leave for a long trip, you always look at a map to see which direction you should take to get there. Objectives are the road map of a training - they tell the learner what to expect. If you don’t give the learner a road map to follow, then how will they know they have arrived? They won’t. But the thing about road maps is that we rarely concern ourselves with the small cities along the way, we pace ourselves by the big cities.  Objectives can work the same way.

Terminal objectives are the bigger picture - the big cities you pass along the way to your final destination. Terminal objectives state what the learner really wants to know. For example, in the picture above, these objectives are Terminal objectives in that they give the learner a road map of what the training will cover.  They hit the big points, but leave out the minute details that may be too complex or boring for the learner to be engaged in.

The little objectives, or Enabling objectives, are the activities, process, and steps the learners will be engaged in during the course of training. For example, the Enabling objective “differentiate between attached and detached sound clips” is a nitty gritty detail that is important for the trainer to teach, but it can be nested under the larger, Terminal objective of “edit footage.”

Both Terminal and Enabling objectives are needed for training development and planning, but the terminal objectives can be the presentation worthy bits that get included. For tips on creating great Power Point presentations, including making a memorable objective slide, I highly recommend this webinar from Training Magazine - 8 Great PowerPoint Presentation Tips to Save You From a Fate Worse than Death by PowerPoint.

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