Are Learning Objectives Optional?

I had the pleasure of attending Project Management for Trainers training this week. It was a wonderful experience where I learned a lot! As I mentioned before, I am a passionate learner and always find value in attending good training. I was able to add some very valuable tools to my tool kit and am grateful for the experience to stretch and grow.

One of the learning nuggets that I took away challenged my current view of the importance of learning objectives. It's always a great practice to challenge your assumptions and not accept what's being taught as "the" right way. This was one of those situations when I had to challenge what I was being taught based on my own expertise.

Never Enough Time

 As learning and performance professionals, we are often faced with rarely having enough time to conduct all of the steps that are necessary for effective training. I can't tell you the number of times that I've had to shave time just to meet my clients' deadlines. We were discussing the critical design tasks and how important they are when designing training. The facilitator stated that writing objectives is of low importance when designing training because if you've done a good task analysis, your tests should determine if the objectives were met.

Learning Objectives are Essential

I have to disagree. I feel that writing learning objectives is an essential piece in the design process because it lets the learners and facilitator know the behavior that should be observed, to what degree they will be able to know or do a particular skill, and the conditions in which they will be able to do it. Without the learning objectives, how will the facilitator measure how well the learners are accomplishing what is expected during the training. Just completing an activity or test doesn't ensure that it's done correctly.

I understand the rationale behind what the facilitator was using to explain why writing objectives is of low importance when constrained by time; however, I still disagree that this step can be omitted. Learning objectives are the foundation of how we determine if the learning experience is effective.

What About Bloom's?

I was thinking does this facilitator remember Bloom's Taxonomy? If you're unfamiliar with Bloom's Taxonomy, I'm sharing a learning nugget in the video that I created with Amanda Smith, ATD Learning and Development Community of Practice Manager.

Designers use learning objectives and Bloom's to choose the most appropriate tests and practice activities. How do you know if you need to use a case study or a quiz without learning objectives? Here's another learning nugget to help you learn a little more about using Bloom's in your training design.

What Do You Think?

I would like to know what other learning and development professionals think about the importance of objectives. Can learning objectives ever be omitted in the design process? What's your rationale for either keeping them or omitting them?