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Learning Outomes and Objectives

Posted on Thursday, July 23, 2015

The A in the ADDIE model represents analysis phase. Much of the analysis phase focuses on learner for whom we are designing the instructions. Factors, such as their age, culture, time constraints, previous knowledge, etc., will influence the design of the instructions. The results of the learner analysis will define three areas – outcomes, assessment, and activities that must align with each other to ensure an effective learning experience. The assessment must align with the outcomes so we know that the designed learning activities effectively assist the learners in passing the assessment and achieving the outcome.  The diagram provides graphic representation interdependency between these three components and student.

Learning Outcomes

To determine the outcome of the training, you have to ask what is it that you want the learner to be able to do. Perhaps it is to be able to help others applying for disability through the Social Security Administration. What activities and/or knowledge must they have to prove they have accomplished this outcome? In order to develop learning activities around the desired outcomes, you need to understand a few things about the learners, the content, and the environment where these skills will be applied. The assessment should measure the success of the learning activities to achieve the desired outcome. While not shown, evaluation should be appraising the success of each component.

After identifying your learning outcomes, they need to be put in a form of learning goals, which are statements of purpose or intention regarding what the learner should be able to do upon completion of instructions. These can be course goals, lesson goals, or unit goals. The goal statement must be very clear, precise statement that matches the problem(s) or need(s) discovered during the needs analysis. They must be stated in observable terms that will prove the learner has acquired the cognitive skills suggested by the goal. The following two statements are samples of a concise and ambiguous learning goal. Which do you think will help drive further design efforts?

1.      Given a scenario with an individual seeking disability benefits, the learner will be able to gather information, select appropriate forms, and assist in completing the information.

2.      Given a scenario with an individual seeking assistance, the learner will understand what to do.

If you picked the first one, you would be correct, as the actions are clear and observable providing guidance on further design and content development. After identifying the learning outcome or goal, you need to determine the learning content needed and the type of learning involved. R. Gagné proposed that most learning outcomes fall into five large domains or categories. These domains differ from each other because the mental processing required to achieve a domain was qualitatively different. A brief explanation of Gagné’s types of learning outcomes follows:

1.      Declarative Knowledge – requires a learner to recall information either in a verbatim, paraphrased, or summarized form.

2.      Intellectual Skills – require the application of rules to previously unencountered examples, which requires not only declarative knowledge but appropriate application.

3.      Cognitive Strategies – require the student to use cognitive strategies to manage their own learning.

4.      Attitudes – the mental state of a student that predisposes a learner to behave in a certain way, which may or may not be conducive to learning.

5.      Psychomotor Skills – the coordinated muscular movements needed to accomplish a task. Psychomotor skills require both a physical and cognitive component (ex. change a tire).

Learning Objectives

After identifying the learning goal, the learning content, and the type of learning required to achieve learning goal, you are ready to write the learning objectives. The learning objective tells what the learners should be able to do when they have completed a segment of instruction. Learning objectives can be written at almost every level of the instructions in many different forms. Robert Mager offers a simple format that breaks down the learning objectives into three parts.

1.      Description of the terminal behavior or action that will demonstrate learning.

a.       Terminal behavior includes actions that the learner can show that he has learned something. This is an action statement and should include action verbs (i.e. select, identify, list, solve, repair, write, etc.).

2.      Description of the conditions of demonstration of that action.

a.       Condition describes the tools or information the learner needs to complete the behavior and often begins with the word given (i.e.given a list of SS benefits, draw a line from each benefit to the appropriate SSI[1] or SSDI[2])

3.      Description of the standards or criterion.

a.       Describes how well the learner must perform to prove he/she has achieved the learning objective.

An example of a properly written learning objective is “Given a list of Social Security benefits, draw a line from each benefit to the appropriate SSI or SSDI category with at least 80% accuracy.” The following image shows the three parts of a learning objective.



[1] SSI – Supplemental Security Income

[2] SSDI – Social Security Disability Insurance