by Maria Lahiffe
Volunteers are central to what you do: they are often the public face of your organization, dealing directly with your clients and the public. You owe it to your volunteers, and to your stakeholders, to provide quality training. Part of quality training is making sure people actually learned what you set out to teach, which are expressed as learning objectives.
When you plan any endeavour, you need to start with the end in mind. Decide what you plan to accomplish and decide how you will know you’ve accomplished it. In the case of a training session, the desired accomplishment should be framed in terms of learning objectives.
A learning objective is a statement of what trainees will be able to do when they have completed the training.  It needs to be observable in order for you to know that it has been accomplished. A well-written learning objective has three parts:
Learning objectives are related to learning goals, but they are different in important ways. A learning goal is “a statement of the intended general outcome of an instructional program” [1, p. 1]
For example, if you are training someone to work at the registration desk at an upcoming event, you could set the following goal and learning objectives:
Learning Objective #1:
Learning Objective #2:
Note that I have assumed that the trainees do not need to be great at managing any exceptions to general procedures, because I assume a supervisor will be present. If you did not have the capacity for supervision, then the training would need to be more thorough, with more learning objectives, and a higher standard of performance before you decide that the trainee is ready for the job.
Training is all about the trainee, not about the instructor. So in writing learning objectives, focus on the trainees and the skills you need them to acquire. Here are some tips: 
Because a learning objective describes an action you need the trainee to perform, make sure every learning objective incorporates at least one verb which accurately describes that action. Here is a good list of verbs to help you.
Your organization does important work, and your volunteers are an important part of making that work happen. You owe it to your team, and more importantly, to your clients, to make sure your volunteers are able to do the work they are assigned to do, to the standard your clients deserve.
Remember, if you have not observed a trainee displaying the desired skill, you have not yet verified that they have that skill. Take the time to make sure, and give extra training, or re-assign the volunteer to another job if needed.
Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to all aspects of running a non-profit or a charity. Click here for our event calendar. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.
Like what you've read? Subscribe to our RSS feed so you never miss a post! We have a general RSS Feed for all VOices blog posts, as well as a Volunteer Management RSS Feed, which will focus on topics related to volunteer management.
Related blog posts: