Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2018 - 13
JULIE WINKLE GIULIONI
SHOULDN'T BE OBJECTIONABLE
If I were to be brutally honest, I'd have
to admit to a conflicted relationship
with learning objectives. My earliest
instructional design training established
these as the non-negotiable cornerstones
of any development effort. And I dutifully
began each project accordingly.
about learning outcomes altogether.
With nearly unlimited resources just a
click away, it's tempting to get to the fun
work of curating content around topics
with little regard for how those topics
must be applied within the context of the
But over the years, a few things began
happening that conspired to undermine
this commitment to learning objectives.
First, what started out as a straightforward
task became increasingly convoluted
as terms and permutations on the idea
evolved. Learning outcomes. Performance
standards. Conditions and criterion.
Cognitive outcomes. Behavioral objectives.
Affective outcomes. It all started to feel
complex and over-engineered.
CAN INFORM AND
SERVE MANY PURPOSES.
Add to this the evolving speed of business.
Business cycles have shrunk dramatically.
Strategic plans - once laid out for five,
10 or 15 years - now operate in months.
Regular and rapid innovation are table
stakes for staying in the game. And the
half-life of technical skills has become
shorter, demanding more and faster
training than ever before.
This accelerating pace and the need for
learning and development to keep up with
- if not get ahead of - the business curve
exacerbates our natural bias for action. By
the time a training need emerges, it means
that someone somewhere is already falling
short of what's needed, and that vital work
is not being addressed appropriately.
And finally, in today's informationrich environment with such a focus on
microlearning, it's all too easy to forget
And so, I've come to the conclusion that
it's precisely because of these pressures
and the pace that learning objectives
may be more important today than ever
before. We can't afford to lose valuable
time developing training that doesn't
deliver results. Slowing down really can
help us go faster in the long-run.
Articulating the 'destination' is the first step
in heading down a focused and productive
path. And learning outcomes can define
the destination. What's needed today is
something more agile and actionable than
what might have served us in the past. But
this requires that we think and approach
things a little differently.
No more splitting hairs. Let's worry
less about what we call these things and
more about how to transform them into
powerful tools that support development
and learning. And while the words on the
page are helpful, they are less important
than the quality of the conversations
you have with learners, their managers,
stakeholders and SMEs. The first step
is for learning professionals to deeply
understand the audience and internalize
business needs and the changes that are
required. Once that happens, objectives
become your guardrails and guideposts
for action ... and a lot less 'objectionable.'
Substance over syntax. Frequently when
it comes to crafting objectives, we focus
too much attention on the vocabulary
(what's the right verb form) versus the
value that objectives can offer. We make it
formulaic rather than building a framework
that works as hard as you do at guiding
development efforts and participant
learning. It boils down to defining what
people need to do and what they need
to know. Keep it that simple. Keep the
list short enough that it's doable. Tailor it
to what makes sense for you, the content
and the learners.
Make objectives work.
objectives shouldn't be something you
complete, cross off the list, and tuck away.
Make your investment pay off beyond your
development effort. Use what you put
together to socialize the learning effort
with executives and others. Incorporate
the text into descriptions and invitations.
Leverage it for evaluation and assessment
instruments. Consider incorporating it
into the performance appraisal process. A
thoughtful learning objective can inform
and serve many purposes.
Julie Winkle Giulioni has 25 years of experience
working with organizations worldwide to
improve performance through learning. Email
T R A I N I N G I N DUSTR Y MA GAZ INE - BACK TO BASICS 2018 I W WW. T RAININGINDU S T RY . C OM/ MAGAZ I NE
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Training Industry Magazine - September/October 2018