Learning Objective Guidelines
Learning objectives should clearly define what the participant will know or will be able to do as a result of attending your presentation. Objectives must be observable and measurable and should focus on the learner.
One- or two-hour sessions should have three learning objectives. Longer sessions should provide four or five objectives.
Learning objectives should take the following format:
At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) __________; (2) __________; (3) __________.
The BACB recommends that learning objectives for all CE events adhere to the criteria below. Learning objectives must:
- Identify new skills that go beyond those required to become certified as a BCBA or BCaBA. Objectives that correspond to items on the current BACB Task List and do not identify how the content goes beyond basic skills are unacceptable.
- Be possible to accomplish within the context and time frame for the event. For example, an objective stating that "participants will be able to design, implement, and monitor a complete staff performance management system" would not be appropriate for a three-hour CE workshop held in a conference room. It may be appropriate for a six-week on-site training program that includes on-the-job observation, modeling, and feedback in addition to didactic instruction. An appropriate objective for the three-hour workshop may be "state the critical elements of a complete staff performance management system."
- Be written in behavioral terms that specify what the participants will do during the event or should be able to do after completing the event, rather than what the participants will "know" or what the instructor(s) will do. For example, an objective stating that "participants will describe recent research-based extensions to the functional analysis" would be appropriate; objectives stating that participants will "gain knowledge of functional analysis" or that the purpose of the event is to "provide an overview of functional analysis procedures" would not be appropriate.
NASP recommends that learning objectives for all CPD activities describe what the participant will or could expect to gain from attending or participating in the activity and how participants can apply the knowledge. Learning objectives should be clearly stated and available to participants. A learning objective should focus on the learner and include a measurable verb (e.g., describe, design, assess, apply, explain, analyze).
Common errors made in writing learning objectives include:
- simply listing topics that will be covered
- using nonmeasurable verbs (e.g., understand, gain awareness)
- not focusing on the learner (e.g., the instructor will provide...)
The APA defines learning objectives as statements that clearly describe what the learner will know or be able to do as a result of having attended an activity. Learning objectives must be observable and measurable, focus on the learner, and contain action verbs that describe measurable behaviors.
Verbs to consider when writing learning objectives:
- list, describe, recite, write
- compute, discuss, explain, predict
- apply, demonstrate, prepare, use
- analyze, design, select, utilize
- compile, create, plan, revise
- assess, compare, rate, critique
Verbs to avoid when writing learning objectives:
- know, understand
- learn, appreciate
- become aware of, become familiar with