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Developing Goals and Objectives


Narrow the Focus

Once the kind of training that is needed has been determined, it is equally important to determine what kind of training is not needed. Employees should be made aware of all the steps involved in a task or procedure, but the training should focus only with those steps on which improved performance is needed. This avoids unnecessary training and tailors the training to meet the needs of the employees.

Determining what the learner needs to know and do should be developed before the training session. Writing goals and objectives will help make sure your training is appropriate and useful to the learner. Effective goals and objectives help ensure training stays on track so that learners gain the specific knowledge and skills required. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z490.1 guidelines require goals and objectives be written for safety training.

In this module, we'll define goals and objectives, and discuss the steps in writing effective learning objectives which are important when developing both instruction and training.

Goals and Objectives: What's the Difference?

One of the most important, yet for some, the most difficult activities in the training process is writing clear-cut, competency-based learning objectives that describe what the learner will be able to do at the end of the training session. Some trainers believe goals and objectives are basically the same thing; not so. Let's take a look.

1. Which of the following describes what the learner will be able to do at the end of the training session?

a. Learning goals
b. Training goals
c. Learning objectives
d. Training objectives

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What is a Goal?

A goal is nothing more than a wish. We've all stated goals like, "I wish I could lose some weight," from time to time. Goals are broad in the sense that they state general intentions. They are not specific enough to be measured. Objectives, on the other hand, are narrow and are set for certain tasks in particular. (More on objectives soon.)

Goals are appropriate for general safety instruction because this type of training does not require measurement of observable, measurable outcomes.

Goals are normally unnecessary when developing specific technical safety training because they are too general in nature and therefore, insufficient.

Technical safety training that teaches safety procedures requires written objectives to make sure employees are proficient. Otherwise, they might be injured or killed!

There are two basic types of goals:

A training goal is a general statement about what the trainer wants to do. It states how the trainer will achieve the intended outcome of training. Training goals might be stated in an instructor guide, but not in the student workbook or handout. For instance, training goals might look like this:

  • Talk about the company's hazard reporting procedures
  • Introduce students to confined space entry requirements

Notice that the examples state what the trainer will do: they use action verbs.

A learning goal, on the other hand, is a general statement about what the trainer wants each student to know and/or do. It summarizes what the learner, not the trainer, will know or be able to do. Learning goals would be included in the student workbook or handout. For instance:

  • Understand hazard reporting procedures
  • Gain a greater awareness of confined space entry
  • Perform first aid procedures

Notice here, that the first two examples above describe what the learner will know. They use passive verbs (understand, gain awareness). The second example uses an action verb to describe what the student will do. It's important to "know" the difference.

2. Which of the following statements is considered a good example of a training goal?

a. Present the seven elements of a safety management system
b. Learn how to complete an accident investigation procedure
c. Increase appreciation for safety in the workplace
d. Students will be able to identify respirator defects

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What's an Objective?


A training objective is a specific statement describing what the trainer is going to do during or immediately after training. For instance, a training objective might state:

  • During the first hour of the training session, the trainer, given a full-face respirator, will discuss and perform each step of the respirator don-doff procedure.
  • By the end of class, the instructor will use a real-world scenario to discuss and present examples for each step in conducting root cause analysis.

A learning objective is a specific statement describing what the learners will know and/or be able to do after training. It describes results, rather than the means of achieving those results. It defines expectations for the learner. Here are some examples:

  • By the end of the class, each student, when given a full-face respirator, will be able to correctly perform all steps of the don-doff procedure.
  • By the end of training, the learner will be able to discuss at least two advantages of conducting incident analysis when asked by the trainer.

In this module, we primarily focus on a discussion of learning objectives.

3. A specific statement describing what the trainer is going to do during or immediately after training is called a _____.

a. learning goal
b. learning objective
c. training objective
d. training goal

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Write Smart Objectives

When constructing objectives, the main question that objectives answer is: What should the participant be able to do differently, or more effectively, after the training is completed?

The SMART Model is one method used to construct practical objectives.

  • "S" stands for Specific. Objectives should specify what they need to achieve.
  • "M" stands for Measurable. You should be able to measure whether you are meeting the objectives or not.
  • "A" stands for Achievable. Objectives should be attainable and achievable.
  • "R" stands for Relevant. Objectives should lead to the desired results.
  • "T" stands for Time-bound. When do you want to achieve the set objectives?

4. Which of the following is NOT one of the five SMART objectives?

a. Relevant
b. Measurable
c. Specific
d. General

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The ABCs of a Learning Objective

An effective learning objective describes outcomes in terms of observable, measurable behaviors. They should be based on an objective needs analysis, not on conjecture or existing trainer guides. The objective should specify the knowledge, skills, and abilities (SKAs) that make performing the task possible. To make sure your learning objectives are clear and concise, be sure to include each of the four components: Audience, Behavior, Conditions, and Standard.

Let's use the following example to get a better idea about the four parts of an effective objective. The numbers within the objective refer to the related criteria discussed below:

At the end of the training session, (1) each student (2) will list (3) without help (4) all steps of the accident investigation procedure in proper order.

Now, Let's take a look at the four components in the above learning objective:

  1. The objective identifies the audience.

  2. Example: "each student"

  3. Next, the objective should describe a behavior. The behavior is the "action" component that must be observable and measurable.
  4. Example: "will list" More examples.

  5. The objective should describe the conditions under which performance is measured.
  6. Example: "without help"

    The student may or may not be assisted as a condition under which they must perform. The condition specifies constraints, limitations, and resources such as tools, working aids, assistance, supervision, and physical environment is given to the learner to perform.

  7. The objective should specify an acceptable standard of performance. It's important to clearly state how well the student must perform. Establish quantitative and qualitative criteria for acceptable performance.
  8. Criteria should describe how well the learner must perform such as:

    • Written exam - complete a multiple choice test in terms of percent correct
    • Oral exam - discuss key elements
    • Skill demonstration - perform steps of a task

    Example: "all proper order. "

5. The phrase, "will list," is an example of a learning objective's _____ component.

a. standard (How well the student must perform)
b. condition (constraints under which the student must perform)
c. audience (who must perform)
d. behavior (what the student must do)

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Use Action Verbs to Describe Behaviors

Remember, we said operational objectives should describe behaviors in are observable and measurable. Below are some examples of sample action verbs to use in each of the six dimensions of the Learning Taxonomy by

Bloom's Revised Learning Taxonomy below is adapted from “A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives,” edited by Lorin W. Anderson and David R. Krathwohl. Bloom's Revised Taxonomy is an excellent tool for developing operational learning objectives, planning instruction and choosing assessment methods.

Bloom's Revised Learning Taxonomy

Each category or level of learning in the learning taxonomy, is listed from simple to complex.

  1. Remembering: recognizing or recalling relevant knowledge, facts or concepts.
    • Verbs: define, describe, identify, label, list, match, name, outline, recall, recognize, reproduce, select, state, and locate. Note: Do not use the term "know" because it is a condition of internal awareness that can't be directly observed. The student must demonstrate the awareness through an externally observable activity.
    • Example: After training, given a written exam, the student will be able to list, in order, all steps of the steps in an accident investigation.
  2. Understanding: constructing meaning from instructional messages.
    • Verbs: illustrate, defend, compare, distinguish, estimate, explain, classify, generalize, interpret, paraphrase, predict, rewrite, summarize, and translate
    • Example: After training, given an accident scenario, the student will be able to correctly estimate the direct and indirect costs of an accident.
  3. Applying: using ideas and concepts to solve problems.
    • Verbs: Implement, organize, dramatize, solve, construct, demonstrate, discover, manipulate, modify, operate, use, predict, prepare, produce, relate, show, solve, and choose
    • Example: After training, given the equipment, the student will be able to properly construct a supported scaffold.
  4. Analyzing: breaking something down into components, seeing relationships and overall structure.
    • Verbs: analyze, break down, compare, select, contrast, deconstruct, discriminate, distinguishes, identify, and outline
    • Example: After training, given an simulated accident scenario, the student will be able to analyze and correctly identify at least three surface causes and related root cause(s).
  5. Evaluating: making judgments based on criteria and standards.
    • Verbs: rank, assess, monitor, check, test, and judge
    • Example: After training, given the equipment, the student will be able properly perform a preventive maintenance test and make a judgment about the condition of the equipment.
  6. Creating: reorganizing diverse elements to form a new pattern or structure.
    • Verbs: generate, plan, compose, develop, create, invent, organize, construct, produce, compile, design, and devise
    • Example: After training, given a simulated accident scenario, the student will be able to properly compile and arrange in the proper sequence, each event that resulted in the accident.

6. Which level of Bloom's Revised Taxonomy is being measured if a student is required to properly operate a tool?

a. Applying
b. Remembering
c. Evaluating
d. Creating

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The Process


We recommend that the trainer develop learning objectives by first developing the performance test, then writing the learning objectives. The following approach outlines this simplified procedure for writing learning objectives.

Step 1: Complete a simulated task analysis

Complete a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) of the job or procedure to be trained. The JHA is considered the best way to develop a lesson plan and objectives for training safety procedures and practices. If you don't have a JHA, picture in your mind the job environment, materials, and events so you have an understanding of the job to be performed.

Step 2: Identify performance requirements

Identify each specific task and the level of performance required for the employee to be qualified to safely perform the job. The specific "performance items" should be written down in preparation for developing the criterion test.

Step 3: Develop a criterion test

The criterion test should be a written exam and/or a skill demonstration. It should measure each performance item described in the operational objectives. For instance:

  1. If we want students to be able to explain how to do a task, the criterion test item should require them to explain a procedure, steps, etc.
  2. If we want students to be able to properly use a respirator, the test should require them to inspect, use, and properly maintain a respirator.

7. What is considered the best way to develop lesson plans and objectives for safety training?

a. Conduct an inspection of the equipment area
b. Think about the job that needs to be trained
c. Develop and use a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)
d. Contract a third-party expert

Check your Work

Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.

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