Developing learning objectives

The second step in the patient education process is to develop learning objectives. To develop objectives, you need to define the outcomes you and the patient expect from the teaching-learning process. Unlike goals, which are general and long-term, learning objectives are specific, attainable, measurable, and short-term. For example, for a newly diagnosed diabetic patient, the overall learning goal may be to learn how to maintain blood glucose levels between 70 and 150 mg/dl at all times.Reaching such a goal may be overwhelming unless it’s broken down into specific, short-term behavioral objectives that lead up to the overall goal. For this patient, an objective such as “After this session, the patient will be able to list five symptoms of hypoglyemica” is one step on the way to the larger goal.

A simple and practical way of developing learning objectives is to start with the words WHO, DOES, WHAT, HOW, and WHEN. For example, the objective “The patient will list five signs of hyperglycemia by time of discharge” could be broken down this way:

  • WHO-the patient
  • DOES-will list
  • WHAT-five signs of hyperglycemia
  • HOW-accurately or by stating out loud
  • WHEN-by discharge

Make sure in writing objectives that you use action words that are measurable such as list, state, explain, and demonstrate. Avoid using terms that cannot be measured or observed easily, such as understand or appreciate.

Planning and implementing teaching