AACC Guidelines for Writing Good Learning Objectives
The AACC offers some psychologists, therapists, counselors, social workers and play therapists Continuing Education (CE) credit due for good standing with certain states and a limited number of professional organizations. Full statement here: https://www.aacc.net/continuing-education/
As such, the AACC requires, in its sanctioned/sponsored events and distance learning formats, for all presenters to submit appropriately written Learning Objectives with their presentation abstract wherever CE credits are offered. Also required with your submission are 3 evidence-based, peer reviewed sources.
Whenever a call for papers is issued or an invitation is extended to present for an AACC event, an important criteria in the evaluation and selection process will include a careful review of the Learning Objectives. Additionally, any individual making a submission for consideration should also keep in mind that presentations and their Learning Objectives must have a clear counseling orientation along with any spiritual/biblical integration.
Normally, 3-4 Learning Objectives are required, so each one is critical in communicating essential content and focus to the prospective learner. The following guidelines for writing good learning objectives are given to assist presenters with the submission process.
1. Goals versus Objectives
Goals are broad-based statements about what a learner will gain from the instructive process. They are typically more difficult to concretely measure because they tend to be global and focus on the “big picture”. However, they do give needed guidance for the writing of Learning Objectives. Think of the goal as the destination and the Learning Objectives as the necessary steps in getting there. They provide a clear guide for both the presenter and the learner, as well as assist in evaluating the overall effectiveness of the presentation.
Objectives need to be clearly written as they guide the presenter in developing instructional materials/strategies, and should address the following three basic characteristics:
- Behavior – Objectives should be written in behavioral terms and describe the actual competency that is to be learned. Therefore, the competency must be tangible and observable. Commonly used terms such as “know”, “understand”, “comprehend”, “grasp”, “recognize”, etc., do not meet this requirement. The correct focus is always on the learner’s performance and on the end product.
- Conditions – Objectives should be written in terms that describe the particular nature, environment, or conditions, in which the learner is expected to perform. This frequently speaks of real life scenarios that the training/presentation is attempting to prepare the learner for the successful deployment of required skills, behaviors, competencies, etc.
- Criterion – Objectives should be written in measurable terms and describe the exact standards/norms used to indicate whether or not learning took place. In other words, a person evaluating the effectiveness of a presentation, must be able to determine if the targeted outcome was reached. It is important that the objectives are also realistic and attainable given the setting and the general competency level of the learner(s).
The following are some examples of Learning Objectives that have all three components:
- Attendees will be able to write a well crafted behavioral contract (behavior) when faced with potentially suicidal clients (condition) that assists them in accessing appropriate support systems (criterion).
- The learner will be able to develop a comprehensive small group proposal (behavior) to incorporate in their local church setting (condition) that helps members successfully begin the 12-step recovery process (criterion).
- Attendees will practice the use of metaphors and other experiential techniques (behavior) applicable to Christian counselees (condition) and that can be incorporated into an overall treatment plan (criterion).
Presenters should avoid using the following verbs when writing Learning Objectives: know, understand, learn, appreciate, become aware of, and become familiar with.
Presenters should consider using the following verbs when writing Learning Objectives: list, describe, write, apply, discuss, use, analyze, compile, critique.
2. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning
Bloom’s Taxonomy offers a practical foundation from which to write solid Learning Objectives. There are three basic learning domains:
- Affective – concerns the learning of beliefs, values, and attitudes
- Psychomotor – concerns the learning of physical and fine motor skills/movements
- Cognitive – concerns the learning of information and how it is processed
Since much of higher education is focused on the cognitive/psychological aspects of the learning process, educators and organizations often utilize Bloom’s third domain as the basis for evaluating well-crafted Learning Objectives.
The following further describes the six levels of cognitive learning and offers several progressive, process-oriented learner behaviors that can be used in writing Learning Objectives. While all six categories are acceptable, presenters are encouraged to consider the higher levels because they incorporate more sophisticated learner competencies.
- Knowledge – the ability to recall and memorize, to identify and repeat the information given
(e.g. know, recall, identify, recognize, acquire, distinguish, list)
- Comprehension – the ability to translate from one form to another, to restate, predict or estimate
(e.g. comprehend, grasp, understand, translate, extrapolate, convert, interpret, abstract, transform)
- Application – the ability to use information in a new situation, to apply knowledge
(e.g. apply, sequence, carry out, solve, prepare, operate, generalize, plan, repair, explain)
- Analysis – the ability to examine a concept and break it down into its individual components
(e.g. analyze, estimate, compare, observe, detect, classify, discover, discriminate, identify, explore, distinguish, catalog, investigate, breakdown, order, determine)
- Synthesis – the ability to put information together in a unique or novel way to solve a problem
(e.g. write, plan, integrate, formulate, propose, specify, produce, organize, theorize, design, build)
- Evaluation – the ability to make quantitative or qualitative judgments using standards of appraisal
(e.g. evaluate, verify, assess, test, judge, rank, measure, appraise, select, check)
Conference and Training Presentation Protocols
The American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC) conducts all conference, training and continuing education activities in conformance with the APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Since your presentation has been selected for inclusion in an AACC conference or training event, please be sure to adhere to the following responsibilities and protocols as an approved presenter:
- Presentation content must be credible—as demonstrated in the broader practice, education, and science-based communities within the discipline of psychology—and to do so by applying relevant findings, procedures, practices, and/or theoretical concepts.
- Presentation content, where appropriate, must be supported using established research procedures and scientific scrutiny.
- Presentation content, where appropriate, must show evidence of peer reviewed, published support beyond those publications and other types of communications devoted primarily to the promotion of a particular approach.
- Presentation content, where appropriate, properly addresses ethical, legal, statutory or regulatory policies, guidelines, and standards that impact psychology.
- Presenters must communicate the accuracy and utility of the information being presented, including any limitations of the content being taught.
- Presenters must communicate any potential risks that may be associated with attendance and/or participation in the workshop, session, or training event.