Training Others
Setting Learner Goals and Objectives

The Anatomy of Good Goals and Objectives

Trainer in front of a classroomWhile pursuing my undergraduate degree in business education, I took an entire semester-long course on writing good learner goals and objectives. Though I won't pass on everything I learned, I do want to stress the importance of establishing goals and objectives for your learners (as well as for yourself) and provide some tips for establishing effective, measurable goals and objectives.

First of all, goals and objectives are not the same thing.

Goals — the general statements that describe the desired solution to a problem or issue.

Objectives — the specific statements that describe the changes expected to achieve a goal. Objectives are usually written as subsets to goals. So, two or more objectives may be associated with a single goal.

For instance, in your accessibility training, a goal would reflect what you want your students to do or understand when they complete your training. An example is, "Training participants will implement accessibility policies in their organization." An objective is a measurable statement that describes one of the changes that is necessary to achieve a goal. An example of such an objective would be, "Training participants will demonstrate knowledge of the first step of developing an accessibility policy."

Objectives should be specific, measurable, and achievable. They should be linked to one concept or principle. Both trainers and students must be able to determine if the objective has been achieved. Because of the training, learners have the knowledge and skill necessary to achieve the objective. Objectives work as stepping stones toward achieving the overall course goal(s).

Setting Learner Goals and Objectives

When planning for your accessibility training, you should first establish goals for what you want your training participants to learn and achieve. Then break these goals down into specific objectives. Once you have objectives, it will be clear to you what content and information your training participants will need at each step to ultimately achieve the goal you have established for them. When designing training, follow this process:

  1. Establish goals.
  2. Write specific, measurable, and achievable objectives.
  3. Map content topics to specific objectives.
  4. Find resources, tools, information, simulations, and other content to help meet each of your objectives.
  5. Review to make sure the content and objectives are helping students achieve the goals.

Often as trainers, we worry about content first and achievement last. What good is an accessibility training if the content is not presented in a way that lends itself toward changing and improving the behavior of its participants? Do not fall into the trap of letting content, such as a fancy simulation or new design technique, drive what you are teaching.

The most important step in this process is to establish good goals. In order to determine which goals are most applicable to your training audience, you must become familiar with who the audience is, what their current knowledge level is, and what their desires and motivations are. This involves communicating with training participants or your hosts before a training begins. Whenever possible, ask your training participants what they hope to get out of the training before you set specific goals and objectives.

At the conclusion of each training event, review your goals and objectives, with their related content and information to see if both objectives and goals were satisfactorily met. If they were met, you have done well. Do not, however, think that those goals and objectives will work in every training session. Always review and make changes for varying audiences. If your goals and objectives were not met, then try and determine the cause. It can almost always be traced back to one of two things. One, either the goals were not applicable to the audience or were not achievable. And two, the content and training information did not help learners achieve specific objectives. This process of evaluating your own training can be difficult at times, but always promotes better training in the future. Take the information you learn from each training and use it in developing better goals and objectives for your next training.