The Learning Objectives – Which Version Is For Whom?

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives – 3-Part Behavioral or not – used as an Advanced Organizer – for both Learning Designers/Developers – and for the Learners.

Hopefully driven by an analysis of the terminal Performance Requirements. Not just made up/rattled off by the client and/or some SMEs. Not … Brainstormed!!!

Here is an example – for the Learners – from a 1998 Workshop for PACT Practitioners doing the MCD Design Role (the PACT Processes were known as the MC/MI Processes at General Motors… where MC was the equivalent of  CAD and MI was MCD… and MCD is the ADDIE-like level of The PACT Processes.

Learners first get Performance Objectives to assure them that we “get” that.

So – we promise – authenticity.


After the Performance Objectives – we give them the Learning Objectives – and make the link.

But – hey – those – aren’t – 3-part behavior Learning Objectives!!!!!

Where are the 3-Part Behavioral Objectives?

They were used for the Designers/Developers – actually the Developers – as in the PACT Processes (MC/MI Processes)  it is the Designers using the Analysis data from the Analysts who create the 3-Part Behavioral Objectives – systematically deriving them from the Performance Model for the Terminal Objectives – and from the enabling Knowledge/Skill Matrices analysis data for the Enabling Objectives.

Your approach, levels and language may vary.

When I do a CAD effort – the top level of Design in The PACT Processes – I let the Performance Models speak to the Terminal Objectives.

Clients could make better sense from something like this – see below – versus a long list of Learning Objectives

Above is an example – of a Performance Model – chart edited from real work done in the mid-1980s. Can you see the 3-part objective in the totality of the data captured in the Performance Model?

Of course it helped make even more sense when preceded by this – the AoPs for the job. See the next graphic.

An Advanced Organizers for the Clients and Stakeholders who would judge the accuracy, completeness and appropriateness of the (in this case) the Analysis data.

Not every ISD effort is concerned with the whole job – which is what CAD addresses to produce an architected Performance Competence Development Path (aka: Learning Path).

CAD is the Systems Engineering equivalent  of ISD – where MCD is the ADDIE-like “NPD New Product Development” level of Instructional Design – leading to development/acquisition, etc. of any gaps on the first draft of the Path. Then MCD/IAD efforts build out the gaps (build and or buy/customize-append).

But in PACT – the Learners never see the full 3-part behavioral objectives – at either level – they only see…

Part 1 of the 3 Part Behavioral Objectives

That way they don’t inadvertently disconnect. Or wander.

We can “count ’em” both to see if anything inadvertently slipped through the cracks.

And – we also don’t go wild with the Number of Objectives.

The first graphic above in this post – are the Terminal Learning Objectives for a 5-day workshop.

Note – they don’t have to be disseminated via a Slide – they could take the form of a live demonstration or a video – I sometimes do them in a DEMO before the typical chain of INFO – DEMO – APPO (Application Exercise) when doing Lesson Mapping. You might give everyone a checklist and play Find Waldo – where the subject in the dmeo or video is doing stuff right and/or wrong.

I also have been known to start a Lesson by jumping – by design – right into an APPO – when the client agrees that many of the Learners will think that they already know this stuff – and probably don’t – and we then let their poor Performance in the APPO – well, the saying is: let the chips fall where they may. Then we establish the Performance and Learning Objectives. Promising an authentic learning experience.

Then we can get on with Learning.

The Point is – to connect with the Learners – and help them see ASAP that this isn’t some generic treatment of the Topic or Task – that it is focused on THEIR REAL WORLD PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS.

And if you find that some Learners “do in fact already know this” – then you should have anticipated that – and in your design had some way to leverage that experience for everyone’s benefit.

I often assign those who pass the 1st APPO as Coaches for others in successive APPOs – which takes more than a One-and-Done approach to APPOs – which is an issue often 9when we try to do to much in any one setting/experience.

But I digress.

Most Learners Have Learned To Be Skeptical

They expect BS. (Bull-only Stuff – a technical term).

Because they have been there before and learned that that is what to expect.

Unless they just fell off that turnip truck. And they have none of THAT prior experience. (Rubes … just kidding).

We often don’t share the Enabling Objectives … all linked back to the Terminal Learning Objectives … linked to the Performance Objectives/Requirements of the job or task or enabler … at the beginning (Open) of an Event.

We share those Enabling Objectives at the beginning of each Lesson – where Events are composed of Lessons and Lessons are composed of Instructional Activities in the PACT MCD Design Process’ hierarchy of design levels.

Whose on First and What’s On Third?

Or who gets the 1-Part and who gets the 3-Part?

We create the 3-Part Objectives for the Developers – and then we TRUNCATE them – for the Learners – so as to not overload them – that Cognitive Overload thingy – with all that 3-Part stuff.

But they parallel each other.

I learned about this approach – not overloading the Learners at ISPI so long ago that it might have been NSPI back then.

And I was reminded of this just the other day – in a Google Group exchange with other ISPI folks that Will Thalheimer chimed in on – sharing the Research findings about that – about not sharing the 3-Part Objectives with the Learners.

Will wrote to the Group – who BTW – was discussing the use of word “Understand” in marketing materials that seemed to pose the Learning Objectives – without calling them such – to an audience with a high percentage of ISD-types in the mix:

“Hamilton wrote after reviewing the research on instructional objectives (as they were used in guiding attention during learning):

“[An objective] that generally identifies the information to be learned … will produce robust effects. Including other information (per Mager’s, 1962, definition) will not significantly help and it may hinder the effects of the objectives.”

At the least, this 1985 research review (that’s 27 years ago by the way) should have clued us into the fact that our over-simplified thoughts about instructional objectives might perhaps possibly be worth re-examining.”


“…there should NOT BE JUST ONE instructional objective written to cover TWO SETS OF INDIVIDUALS and the MANY GOALS we MIGHT TARGET FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS. Rather, we should be more specific in using our instructional objectives to target different groups of individuals and different behaviors of those groups.”

BTW – I emailed a copy of this Post to Will for his OK to use what I’ve used here.

Check out Will’s Blog – here – and his web site – here.

Those 3-Part Behavioral Objectives for Instruction

…the Robert F. Mager Way – a.k.a.: Bob Mager (was first published in 1962 as: Preparing Objectives for Programmed Instruction) is covered in his classic book: Preparing Instructional Objectives – which I have owned since 1979.

Chapters 3-4-5 cover “Performance, Conditions and Criteria” – the 3-Parts.

Order that book here – or the Mager 6 Pack here – via Amazon.

Final Notes

1- There are many ways to do Instructional work – many variations that will work just fine – and lots more that just won’t.

2- I personally wouldn’t use the word Understand in Learning Objectives – especially if it might be viewed by Instructional-types – although I agree with a comment that Will made that you can – as long as what follows is measurable – and that depends on the other Parts of your multi-part way to format Learning (and Performance) Objectives. See Note #1 above.

3- We all “Live Today with the Sins of the Past” – of those who came before us and taught the Learners to expect that BS from us. If that’s the case – then deal with it by making the extra effort to help them – the Learners – see that this won’t be more of the same BS. Connect with them. If you are really going to address THEIR real-world use of the Topic or Task back on the job – AUTHENTICALLY – then they most likely will be ready and eager to Learn – unless they are sooooooooooo skeptical that you’ll need to work sooooooooooooo much harder to convince them otherwise.

Update January 29, 2015

Great video by Will Thalheimer – posted this morning – on this very topic …

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