Posted on 09-Feb-15

In the last blog, we addressed some common language used to describe course outcomes, also called objectives. We would like to continue in this issue on the importance of objectives in design and assessment.

The ANSI/IACET Standard Category 5: Learning Outcomes provides a clear standard for IACET members to use as a guide to ensure their courses have the outcomes clearly defined. But really, the standard also provides a clear and concise methodology for developing sound learning outcomes that would benefit any course--­IACET or no. Let’s take a closer look.

If we follow the rules of most (Read: any) instructional design method, we must first identify that a training need exits. For simplification, someone cannot currently do something that they need to know how to do, and training is a plausible solution. At this point, we are tasked with defining the “something” in a precise way. This is done through Learning Outcomes. Additionally, we must specify how to identify when the learner has demonstrated that they can perform the function; more on this later.

The ANSI/IACET Standard Category 5: Learning Outcomes 5.1 defines that the learning outcomes must clear, specific, and measurable, and reflect what learners will achieve in each learning event. The language used to define the performance expectation can be derived from Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain. ANNEX-3 of the standard gives a brief overview of this reference.

Here is an example of how to write a learning outcome specifically for the desired performance level. When the performance expectation is that the learner must only recall specific facts about something, then the Knowledge level of the domain is used. If you want the learner to be able to recall facts, a learning outcome could look like this:

Upon completion of this lesson, the learner will be able to list all of the types of personnel protective equipment available in the laboratory. Or Upon completion of this lesson, the learner will be able to recognize all of the types of personnel protective equipment available in the laboratory.

These learning outcomes properly describe the performance, but what does it mean to the learner if they can recognize a respirator? Chances are we want them to know what it’s for and how to use it. Here’s another example of specifying the performance at a higher level of the Cognitive Domain, Comprehension:

Upon completion of this lesson, the learner will be able to explain how to don an Emergency Breathing Apparatus.

Again, we have reached a higher level of performance according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. However, can you say that this person can actually use the device? OK, one more example:

Upon completion of this lesson, the learner will be able to demonstrate how to don an Emergency Breathing Apparatus.

This is the Application level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, and here we are asking the learner to “demonstrate” how to.

Once we define the performance we need to consider how we will assess the learner’s performance. ANSI/IACET Standard Category 8: Assessment of Learning Outcomes defines how performance must be assessed. In the case of our last learning outcome, where the learner has to “demonstrate” how to do something, standard element 8.2 requires that you must measure the performance.

A properly written learning outcome must specify what the learner will achieve and the subsequent assessment must be adequate to measure the performance.

Alan Hoover, Principal Consultant, EAI Learning, Inc.

 


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