Objectives: A roadmap to training success


Remember the days of the Perly’s map? Maybe, maybe not depending on your generation. This was way back in the day. Way before Google Maps or any sophisticated GPS device. I remember before we set out in the car, my grandfather would fish out his Perly’s from the glove compartment. He would spend a couple of minutes mapping out where he needed to go to ensure he arrived at his destination. There is nothing unusual about that. This is the step that any logical person would take. It defies reason that one would set out on a journey, having no idea how to get there and no plan.

Objectives play an important part in many facets of our lives – careers, life decisions etc. In the training world, objectives are equally necessary and important. They answer the question, what do you intend for the learner to achieve? A training program needs to have a set destination with checkpoints along the way. Objectives not only ensure that you arrive at your destination but also provides markers to assure you that you are on the right path.

There are generally two types of learning objectives: terminal and enabling. Terminal objectives describe the expected level of performance by the end of the training. Enabling objectives define the skills, knowledge or behaviours learners must reach in order to complete the training successfully. Both learner and facilitator benefit greatly from these guidelines. For the facilitator, objectives provide a framework for delivery. For the learner, he/she can readily identify the specific points they need to master.

Okay, so we have established that we need objectives in line with the intended outcomes.  Before you set pen to paper or in the digital world, fingers to keyboard, consider these three things:

  1. What should the learners be able to do?
  2. Under what conditions do you want the learners to perform?
  3. How well must the learners perform?

We can break these three questions further into three words: performance (behaviour), condition, criteria. One of the negative things about training programs is that they are ineffective and learners do not see value. The value begins with defining the goals and objectives. Equally, the effectiveness is achieved when the objectives are realized.

We all know the acronym SMART:


Objectives should be all of these things.

This is a good mnemonic to use as an aid. So, while charting the destination, ensure you are SMART about the journey.