Manufacturing Training & Learning Objectives

Manufacturing Training & Learning Objectives

We all want to make training that has impact for the employees who complete it and for the manufacturing/industrial companies we work for. After all, if your manufacturing training has no real impact, what’s the point of creating and delivering it?

One of the single most important things you can do is to write learning objectives for your manufacturing training before you enter design and development and before you deliver the training to manufacturing workers. And yet, in many cases, people skip over this essential early step.

In this article, one in a continuing series we’re dubbing “manufacturing training insights,” we’re going to introduce you to learning objectives. We’ll explain what they are; we’ll explain their three (or maybe four) key parts; we’ll give you three reasons why they’re useful; and maybe most importantly, we’ll (1) include a recorded discussion we had with the noted and highly-credible learning and development researcher Dr. Patti Shank about how to write performance-based learning objectives.

In a sense of general manufacturing training design and development chronology, you should be thinking about writing learning objectives after you’ve done your training needs analysis and before you do much else of the “design” phase of ADDIE. Read here for more on the training needs analysis (the “A” in ADDIE) and ADDIE.

A Quick Backwards-Review of ADDIE

As a quick FYI or reminder, the standard (but not the only) training design/development/delivery method is known as ADDIE. Each letter in ADDIE (A, D, D, I, and E) stands for one step or phase in the training design, development, and delivery process.

The five steps of ADDIE are: A for analysis, D for design, D for development, I for implementation, and E for evaluation.

The process of writing learning objectives is probably the first thing you’ll do during the design phase.

We’ve already written an article in this series that introduces the analysis phase of ADDIE for manufacturing training.

We’ll write additional articles that explain the other parts of ADDIE as well, so stay tuned for that.

Again, you can check out our introduction to ADDIE article if you want a scene-setter here.

Write Your Learning Objectives as the First Part of Your Design Phase for Manufacturing Training

Once you’ve completed analysis, and you know that creating training is the right solution, the first thing you’ll want to do next is write one or more learning objectives for your training.

Don’t do anything else before you write your learning objectives. Don’t begin designing or developing your training materials. Don’t begin thinking about delivering your training materials. Etc.

You can move on to the rest of that AFTER you’ve written your learning objectives. And having learning objectives already prepared will help guide you through the rest of the training development process.

OK, So What’s a Learning Objective?

To put this in a few words, a learning objective is what you want the employees who complete the manufacturing training you’re thinking of creating to be able to do when the training is completed and again when they’re back on the job.

In short, your learning objective (or learning objectives, as there may be more than one) is the entire reason you’re creating and delivering training.

If you’re designing and delivering training, but you don’t really know what you want employees to be able to do as a result of that training when the training is done, then you’re wasting your time. You’re highly likely to create training that meanders, that doesn’t help people on the job, and that doesn’t contribute to your company’s organizational goals.

The Three (or Four) Parts of a Learning Objective (ABCD)

When you’re writing a learning objective, you should think of them as having three or perhaps four parts (sometimes people take the first part for granted and so they only say three parts).

Those parts are represented in the mnemonic device ABCD for learning objective creation. Each of those letters stand for one part of a learning objective. Those parts are:

  1. A—Actor
  2. B—Behavior
  3. C—Conditions
  4. D—Degree

Let’s discuss each of those a little more closely.

The Actor (A) in your learning objective is the person who will have to complete the objective. This means the employee(s) involved in the training. It’s important to note this isn’t you, the training designer and/or developer, but the learners.

The Behavior (B) is what employees should be able to do when the training is over. It’s a physical or mental behavior that’s observable and measurable. It’s not something like “understand” or “appreciate,” because these are not behaviors and they’re not observable/measurable (that’s a common mistake in learning objective creation).

The Condition is the set of environmental conditions in which the learner/employee must be able to perform the behavior. For example, maybe it’s “at normal production speeds.”

And the Degree is how well the learner must complete the learning objective. Maybe it’s 100% accurately, or maybe it’s 12 times in a minute.

Read more about the different parts of a learning objective in our article on performance-based learning objectives according to Robert Mager.

Four Uses for a Learning Objective for Training Design

So what’s so great about learning objectives, you ask? Why should you go to the trouble of creating them before you creating training activities?

Well, let us give you four solid reasons.

First, so you yourself will be forced to think through what’s so important about your training and why you’re creating it. What do you need employees to do when the training is over? If you don’t know this, your training is pretty much guaranteed to be poor.

Second, because once you’ve written those learning objectives, you can use it to make sure you training training materials and activities to sufficiently instruct learners to perform those objectives and that you create no additional training materials (yes, in training, less is more).

Third, you can also use those learning objectives to help you create the assessment(s) at the end of training that will help you tell if the employees CAN satisfy the learning objectives. Note: you can be sure there’s an article coming in the future on this topic.

And fourth, learning objectives are a helpful clue to employees who are beginning a training activity. You let them know what they’re about to learn and it will help them focus on that content and also help them self-judge their own understanding as the training progresses.

An Interview with Dr. Patti Shank on Learning Objectives

We held a recorded discussion with the well-known learning researcher Dr. Patti Shank on learning objectives. We’ve included that video for you below—hope you like it!

You’ll probably also want to know we’ve done other recorded discussions with Dr. Patti Shank, including this one on learning assessments. As mentioned above, that’s kinda the yang to the yin in this learning objectives/learning assessment equation.

Conclusion: Your Manufacturing Training Will Be No Stronger than Your Learning Objectives

If it’s true that the foundation of your manufacturing training is your training needs analysis—and it is—it’s equally true that your training will never be better than your learning objectives.

We hope you found this article helpful and we invite you to check out the other articles in our Manufacturing Training Insights series. Watch for an article on training assessments next.

Jeff Dalto, Senior Learning & Performance Improvement Manager
Jeff is a learning designer and performance improvement specialist with more than 20 years in learning and development, 15+ of which have been spent working in manufacturing, industrial, and architecture, engineering & construction training. Jeff has worked side-by-side with more than 50 companies as they implemented online training. Jeff is an advocate for using evidence-based training practices and is currently completing a Masters degree in Organizational Performance and Workplace Learning from Boise State University. He writes the Vector Solutions | Convergence Training blog and invites you to connect with him on LinkedIn.

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