Presenting Authentic Objectives

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Darryl L. Sink and Associates, Inc. (DSA) helps organizations design and develop learning and performance solutions that get results. DSA works cooperatively with organizations to:

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DSA would like to thank DSA Associate Dr. Paul Swan for contributing this month's tip. Paul Swan will provide more ideas and techniques on how to write and use authentic objectives at the Learning and Performance Conference June 20-22 in Monterey, CA.

Authentic objectives are the foundation upon which effective courses are built.

When the technical specification for a course you are designing closely matches what the required performance back on the job is, you are able to make better design decisions.

The critical attributes of an authentic overall objective are:

  1. The condition statement describes the job environment or describes a simulation of the job environment within which the learner is expected to perform a specific overall task. This should include:
    1. A description of the elements of the situation(s) that cause a worker to do the task.
    2. A description of the work-station of the worker that includes a list of all tools and materials needed and used by a worker to perform the entire job task.
  2. The action statement contains an observable action verb that typically is used to describe the overall task back on the job.
  3. A standard of performance in checklist form that details the steps, standards, and qualities of a successful performance. This often includes a combination of the following:
    1. A performance checklist that describes the required observable steps or parts of a successful performance. This is a list of what an evaluator must observe while the subject is actually doing the task.
    2. A product checklist that precisely specifies the required observable characteristics of a product that results from a performance. The success of the performance is measured by whether or not the characteristics of the deliverable meet the standards specified.

I almost always incorporate the three critical attributes of an authentic objective into the following template:

Given ________________________________________,

the learner will be able to __________________


Satisfactory performance must include:



In order to create an authentic objective, I often have to come up with creative ways to simulate the conditions and performance of the task. For example, when a task requires days, weeks, or even months to perform on the job, I must create a realistic simulated condition that compresses the timeline to something we can teach and test within our limitations. More importantly, I must design the simulated condition and task in such a way that mastery of the simulation must translate to mastery of the task back on the job.

When clearly articulated authentic objectives are used as the technical specifications for your course, you gain the following advantages:

  1. You have specifications for learning activities where the students can practice the required skills.
  2. You have a process for providing accurate, immediate feedback during practice activities.
  3. You have job aids that students, supervisors, and other stakeholders can use back on the job to evaluate and provide feedback on performance.
  4. You have a structure for developmental testing and validation of your course and for Level 2 (objective-based testing) and Level 3 (Transfer) evaluation of your course.

Please give these ideas from Dr Swan a try, as you create more authentic Learning Objectives.

See you next time,