Developing Measurable Performance Objectives

April 29, 2015

Writing performance objectives is as easy as A,B,C (and D) when you focus on measuring specific outcomes.

Too often, our learning objectives are vague and general, making it difficult to determine if the desired performance has been achieved. To be really effective, objectives must be precise.

Think of the difference between a rifle and a shotgun. The shotgun blast is scattered and somewhat random, while the rifle provides more control and a straight trajectory. Performance objectives should be as targeted as a rifle shot and have two primary qualities:

  1. The trainee and trainer have a common understanding of the desired outcome; and
  2. The trainee and trainer understand the firm criteria by which a trainee’s progress and level of competency may be assessed at a specific point in time.

To hit that target every time, use the following formula:

  • Audience – Who is the learner?
  • Behavior – What observable action will the learner be able to perform when evaluated?
  • Conditions – What resources will the learner use; what time limitations on the evaluation, etc.?
  • Degree – What measure will be used to determine the learner’s mastery of the subject?

Consider the following example of a strong performance objective related to learning to use a scale:

“Each employee certified to work in the QC laboratory [Audience], given 4 samples of different weight, 5 minutes and the TEC scale [Conditions], will weigh all samples [Behavior] to within .05 grams of actual weight [Degree].”

It’s lengthy, but precise and measurable.

The task is in the psychomotor learning domain – learning a skill – but performance objectives can just as easily be written for cognitive and affective domain learning. In the cognitive domain, which focuses on understanding, the objective could be something like this:

“The warehouse parts clerk will correctly identify production parts using standard part names, when shown photographs of the parts, with a 100% degree of accuracy.”

Even affective domain learning can be measured. Here’s an example of an affective learning performance objective that measures attitude change:

“All company employees will show respect for each other when working, as shown by a 10% reduction in harassment complaints within one month.”

To put it all in perspective, here’s a performance objective for reading this article:

“The reader, given paper, pencil and 15 minutes, will write one performance objective for each learning domain using the ABCD format.”

Give it a try.

Contact Information:
Dave Gallup
GMPTraining.com, Inc.
18585 Coastal Highway
Unit 10, #149
Rehoboth, DE 19971