Comments on: Why requiring learning objectives for great conference presentations sucks Unconferences, peer conferences, participant-driven events, and facilitation Mon, 03 Dec 2018 14:34:19 -0500 hourly 1 By: ryanr Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:47:00 +0000 I think it’s a waste of time. I have never found them helpful as a learner. I am a good presenter and get good evals/feedback. I don’t like the “edu-speak” people telling me that I have to do this. I don’t believe in outline slides either-another waste of time during the talk. If your students can’t figure out what you’re going to talk about from your title/discipline then we have a bigger problem. Good discussion – I like to hear other viewpoints.

By: ryanr Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:44:00 +0000 You ought to be able to figure out which sessions to go to based on the title.

By: Laura Kestner-Ricketts Tue, 15 Mar 2016 17:45:00 +0000 Great post. It was very helpful as I completed two proposals today! I was able to change my whole mindset as well. Here is my favorite new learning outcome: Be more thankful for the chaos that surrounds them 🙂

By: Adrian Segar Mon, 07 Jan 2013 14:42:18 +0000 Wow, Kathi, thank you for such an in-depth and thoughtful response! I agree with much you’ve said, so I’ll confine myself to the places where, perhaps, we have a slightly different perspective.

From the perspective of a vetter of speaker proposals, especially those from novices, I agree that looking at a list of learning objectives has some value. They can, as you say, help pinpoint potential concerns and lead to useful pre-session guidance. But I think the danger with routinely asking for and reviewing learning objectives is that it can lull reviewers and presenters alike into the mindset that you outline towards the end of your post; namely that everything important about what happens at a session can be reduced to a specific learning objective.

The problem is, again as you point out, that learning objectives need to be specific, and, by this criterion, my desire to “blow attendees’ minds” doesn’t qualify. Your asking me “what does that look like?”—i.e. requiring me to be specific—excludes the freedom you also refer to: the necessity and inevitability for participants to take away the personal learning that occurs during the session.

I have been to workshops (and they’re always the highly participatory sessions; that why I call them workshops) that have “blown my mind”. And I know they have also blown the minds of others who attended them, but in ways that were different and appropriate for each of us. The designers of those workshops could not have predicted in advance what participants would learn there. Just as you wouldn’t ask an artist for their learning objectives for their art, asking designers of such sessions for learning objectives evokes the same kind of response I’ve attempted to convey in this post.

Does that make any sense, Kathi?

By: Kathi Edwards Fri, 04 Jan 2013 20:14:00 +0000 Saw your Twitter post this morning, Adrian, and think it’s great you’re raising this topic again now. I agree the conversation is as relevant today as it was when this post first appeared, so I’ll toss in my comments (and they got way longer than expected…mea culpa!)

From an instructional design standpoint, objectives do all the things mentioned thus far, and also guide evaluation of learners, speakers, and programs. The objectives state the intent…what the audience should know or be able to do when it’s over…and you can evaluate whether and how well it was achieved. In a good objective (or outcome), the verb is always in active voice…see Bloom’s Taxonomy…you can’t observe whether someone “knows” something, or “learns” it, or “understands” it, and thus can’t know whether it’s been achieved. If they just need to know something, or be able demonstrate that they know it, words like “list” and “describe” and “identify” are things a learner can do to demonstrate knowledge transfer (on a written test, for example, or privately to themselves after a conference). To APPLY what is learned is a higher-level behavioral outcome, and verbs like “examine” and “construct” would be used. However, evaluation at that level generally takes place 3-6 months after the learning event.

I did the same kinds of things Traci did in vetting speaker proposals when I was responsible for speaker selection in associations. Objectives also tell me whether the speaker is over-reaching, or is likely to accomplish in the allotted time what s/he is proposing. Many do think they can achieve more than is feasible…and those are the sessions that lack depth. Determining objectives also provides a filter speakers can use to stay on point and help identify ”need-to-know” content. “Nice-to-know” content can be added if time is available.

Ultimately, learning is about changing behavior, doing something differently as a result of learning something new. In a 75- or 90-minute conference session, chances are the most that can be accomplished is knowledge transfer…we don’t know whether participants actually DO something with this new knowledge and there’s no guarantee they will. 😉 How many of us go to conferences, get great ideas, have the best intentions to use those ideas…and then what I like to call the “tyranny of the urgent” takes over and a month or two later we still haven’t implemented what we learned (there ARE ways to enhance the likelihood!)?

Speakers ALWAYS have some kind of intent for their sessions…yet is it what participants want to learn? Respectfully, it’s not about you! Nor is it ever about the speaker. My favorite quote on this subject came from Mel Silbermann, active-learning guru: “It’s not what you give them; it’s what they take away that counts.” Participants ALWAYS want to know “what’s in it for me?” As Dave and a couple of others said, objectives/outcomes help frame expectations, and from within those expectations participants can and do take away value depending on their individual needs.

Can you tell I’m passionate about this? LOL It’s an important conversation whenever people focus on value received in learning events.

Finally, let me ask you this: in the post, you state “I want to blow attendees’ minds. And I want to change their lives.” How? What does that look like? What would participants do if their minds are blown and their lives are changed? I’d bet your response would look suspiciously like an objective. 😉

By: Adrian Segar Mon, 12 Mar 2012 12:11:00 +0000 Ah Annamarie, the blog post title sucked you in! [Full disclosure: Annamarie is a friend and an expert in instructional training and design.]

Yes, learning objectives are completely appropriate for courseware (until we get courseware that’s run by true AI, if that ever happens). That’s because courseware provides a relatively inflexible learning environment, at least compared to that potentially available to a good presenter.

Annamarie, do instructional trainers work with “learner outcomes” too?

By: Annamarie Pluhar Mon, 12 Mar 2012 11:10:00 +0000 A good idea for putting courseware together that has become jargonized (intended) and applied where it shouldn’t be.  Like “Change Management” and “Exceeding Customer Expectations.”

I hated them as a student teacher – I thought “how do I know what the kids will learn?”  Now as an instructional designer, I value how they give direction and clarity to a course.

And I would say that you should offer conference proposal evaluators the second of your two option.

By: Adrian Segar Wed, 29 Dec 2010 19:49:00 +0000 Good points Dave. I think the difference between objectives and outcomes is more than semantics though. Objectives are about things that attendees will be able to do after the session. Outcomes include objectives, but also, crucially, can include changes in understanding and world-view, and energy around a topic or approach.

So I think there’s a big difference between learning objectives and learner outcomes, despite the fact that they can both be referred to by the acronym LO.

Also, I’d never presume to include “blow attendees minds” as a formal learner outcome for a session I led. (Ultimately, whether attendees’ minds are blown is up to them, quite apart from my limited ability to deliver such an outcome.) But it is often an unwritten goal…

By: Dave Lutz Mon, 27 Dec 2010 12:06:00 +0000 Adrian, great discussion on this important topic. It sounds like it’s mostly a semantics issue…objectives vs. outcomes. I think if you were able to articulate the three ways or areas that you will blow an attendees mind, you’d be on track for what the organizers and attendees desire for session selection. Perhaps thinking about it in terms of what the learner will do differently or better after applying what they learned in your session would be a good filter.

It’s also important to set the right expectations and deliver to those. If you were to write a session description and learning objective that said that you were going to blow participants minds…and that is not how they feel when leaving the room, you fail and so does the organizer. If attendees walk out of your session with blown minds, and they didn’t expect that, you’re going to be rated off the charts and everyone wins.

LO’s are helpful guide-posts for vetting session selection and relevance. As Tracy points out, they also are critically important to sifting through and selecting speakers and topics.

By: Adrian Segar Tue, 21 Dec 2010 18:07:00 +0000 John, thank you for coming to the defense of presentation proposals. Perhaps there’s a terminology confusion here, exacerbated by the photo I chose to illustrate the post, which displays the term “learning outcomes”, a term I didn’t use in the article.

I find that I like your term “learner outcomes” much better than “learning objectives”. The former allows the inclusion of goals; the latter does not (at least in the way it’s popularly presented). And I speak to this in the penultimate paragraph of the post, where I say “Learning objectives restrict outcomes to safe, measured changes to knowledge or competencies.”

So, now you’ve pointed out a better term to use, the only problem is that, looking back through the presentation proposal requests I’ve been filling out the last few months, I find that everybody asks for learning objectives, not learner outcomes. I guess I’m going to stay irritated while this state of affairs continues 🙂

John, thanks again for helping me to clarify my understanding and learn something new!