ABCD Learning Objectives Model

Outlining Learning Essentials

ABCD Learning Objectives Model - Outlining Learning Essentials

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Use the ABCD Learning Objectives Model to write an effective learning objective.

Have you ever been asked to teach a class, or develop a training program?

If so, how do you know where to start? How should you structure your class? How can you make sure that your training program is suitable for your audience? And, how do you ensure that your students finish with the right knowledge and skills?

This is where the ABCD Learning Objectives Model is useful. This model outlines four things that you need to think about to create a thorough and complete learning objective; and this learning objective lays the foundations of a successful training session or learning experience.

Overview

Robert Heinich, along with his colleagues Michael Molenda, James D. Russell, and Sharon E. Smaldino, developed the ABCD Learning Objectives Model and published it in their 2001 textbook, "Instructional Technology and Media for Learning."

It outlines four elements that help you ensure that instruction has both a clear objective and a clearly defined desired outcome.

The four elements are:

  1. Audience.
  2. Behavior.
  3. Conditions.
  4. Degree.

When developing your learning session, make sure that you address each of the four elements in the model.

Applying the Model

Let's look at each of the four elements in detail.

1. Audience

Your audience's needs determine the structure of your learning session. So, who are you teaching? What is their current level of knowledge? What type of language should you use? And, how can you best meet this group's needs? These are all questions that you must answer in this first step.

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Take steps to cater to different learning styles. Some people learn best by hearing or reading information, while others remember information by doing hands-on activities, or by working with a group. To understand this, consider asking learners to complete a survey before the first instruction session, so that you can identify their preferred learning style; this will help you deliver instruction effectively.

Example Learning Objective

  • The new HR recruits will be able to...
  • IT department members should demonstrate...

2. Behavior

What behaviors should students be able to demonstrate at the end of the learning session? What knowledge or skills must they leave with? (Don't worry about how you're going to measure the behavior, as you'll address this in the last step.)

It's important to be specific. Avoid generalized words such as "know" or "understand," as these are hard to measure. Instead, use action verbs like "demonstrate," "identify," "solve," "compare," or "list."

If you're not sure about the specific skills that your audience needs to learn, or if you want to make sure that you don't overlook an important skill, conduct a training needs assessment to identify any gaps in your audience's knowledge, training, or skills.

Example Learning Objective

  • The new HR recruits will be able to compare vacation time requests with employees' allowances...
  • IT department members will demonstrate that they can address help desk tickets...

3. Conditions

Identify the conditions under which your learners must demonstrate their knowledge or skills by the end of the session.

Will learners have to recite this new knowledge from memory? Or will they have access to tools or resources, such as software, graphs, or reference material? List the resources that are available to them.

Example Learning Objective

  • Using the departmental system, HR recruits will be able to compare vacation time requests with employees' allowances...
  • Relying on memorized knowledge, IT department members will demonstrate that they can address help desk requests...

4. Degree

The last element in the model addresses the measurable standards that you'll use to assess your students' performance.

Think carefully about how they'll use this information in their role: how will their boss, colleagues, or clients judge – or measure – them? What expectations will they have to live up to?

How you assess your students' knowledge in the training class should reflect how they'll be measured after they leave.

Example Learning Objective

  • HR recruits should be able to compare vacation time requests with employees' allowances within one day, and without error.
  • IT department members should address each help desk ticket within 30 minutes; if they're assisting another client, they'll communicate within this timescale when help will be available.

Once you've considered each of the four elements, your final learning objective should sound like this:

  • Using departmental software, HR recruits will be able to compare vacation time requests with employees' allowances within one day, and without error.
  • Relying on memorized knowledge, IT department members will demonstrate that they can address help desk tickets within 30 minutes; if they're assisting another client, they'll communicate within this timescale when help will be available.

Note:

You can use the ABCD Learning Objectives Model to think about what you want to teach your students, and to define how you're going to measure their success. Other tools, such as Gagne's 9 Levels of Learning or Active Training Techniques, will help you construct a successful and engaging class.

You'll also want to consider what type of class or program will best serve your students. Instructor-Led Training, Cross-Training, Online Training, and On-the-Job Training all offer different benefits and drawbacks. Consider each of these options – and any others that are relevant – as you design your learning experience.

Key Points

Robert Heinich, along with Michael Molenda, James D. Russell, and Sharon E. Smaldino, developed the ABCD Learning Objectives Model and published it in their book, "Instructional Media and Technologies for Learning." The model outlines four elements that you should address when writing a learning objective:

  1. Audience.
  2. Behavior.
  3. Conditions.
  4. Degree.

With a clearly defined learning objective in place, you can develop a training session that successfully meets your organization's needs.