Monday, 30 August 2010

Writing SMART Objectives

I never cease to be amazed at how much training takes place without clear objectives ever having been set. So many trainers tend to rely on their knowledge of a subject being enough to get them through a training session and wonder why the learners haven’t grasped the topic by the end of the activity.

Writing clear and specific objectives is not an arduous task when done properly and, furthermore, can open up so many new opportunities for incorporating a variety of training methods and resources that may never previously have been considered.

The key to writing objectives for a training session is to ensure they are SMART. This often-heard acronym, if used properly, is an immensely valuable tool that can ensure your objectives are meaningful and meet all the criteria of a good training session. But, from the outset, it is important to remember that SMART is a checking process, not a writing process. SMART should be used AFTER your draft objectives have been written to ensure you are meeting all your learners’ requirements.

So, what is SMART?
There are a number of variations on the exact wording for this acronym, but for the purpose of this article (and my personal preference) we will use the following:

S – Specific (describes exactly what you are going to deliver and what the learner will be able to do)

M – Measurable (can be observed during the training programme)

A – Attainable by the end of the training programme

R – Relevant to the needs of the learner

T – Time-Based (achievable by the end of the training programme)

Writing Objectives Exercise
Now we understand what SMART objectives are about, let’s put this knowledge on the back burner for a while. Remember, SMART is a checking process, not a writing process.

I want you to think of a subject you could deliver to your learners in a one-hour training session. Keep it simple for the purpose of this exercise. You can download an Objectives Exercise worksheet here. Once you have come up with a subject, try to think of about three objectives for your training session. Write them down, then use the SMART checking process. Look at each objective in turn. Are they specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based? The chances are your objectives will need some tweaking at this point and that’s the beauty of this process. Fine-tuning your objectives before getting down to the nitty-gritty of training methods and resources, allows for more time to be spent on planning the latter. Once your objectives are robust and in place you can focus all your attention on how you’re going to achieve the objectives, the timing, sequence of activities, resources, etc.

If this is a method you have not used in the past, give it a try, I’m pretty sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results. And drop me a line to let me know how you get on.

If you’d like to learn more about SMART objectives you should sign up for our two-day Train the Trainer course.

Visit Gary Bedingfield Training Services website at