Learning Objectives

At 0100 hours, local fire companies are dispatched to a structure fire in the residential area of Anytown USA. On arrival, the company officer/incident commander (IC) conducts a size up and communicates an initial arrival report. Several moments later, a chief officer arrives on scene, conducts his/her own 360, and then assumes command. To satisfy his/her role as the IC, an incident action plan (IAP) is established. Near the top of the is a list of one or more strategical or tactical objectives. These objectives drive what task level activities firefighters will engage in to support the plan.

Fire service instructors do not actually fight or manage “structure fires” while in the classroom or on the drill ground; however, they do use learning/performance objectives to satisfy the overall mission—learning or behavior modification. Learning objectives are similar to strategic or tactical objectives. A learning objective is a specific statement that describes the knowledge or skills that a participant should acquire by the end of a lesson. In some settings, learning objectives are also referred to as a performance, behavioral or competency objective.

The fire service instructor shall use learning objectives as a foundation for building content and activities that will be used in the learning environment. Learning objectives are also used to validate questions that are part of an assessment/exam. Simply stated, learning objectives “drive” the discussion and activities that the participant/learner will be a part of.

Typically, the Instructor I will be given a lesson or course plan that have learning objectives and an outline pre-authored. The Instructor II may be tasked with creating a lesson plan. Part of lesson plan development includes the building of one or more learning objectives. Bloom's Taxonomy is an excellent source for understanding the hierarchical classification of the different levels of thinking, and the best verb to use when generating a cognitive or psychomotor learning objective.

There are several different formats for creating a terminal learning objective (TLO). One method is to build the TLO using the “condition, behavior, standard” format. A second method includes using “audience, behavior, condition, degree” format. Example: The participant (audience) shall raise a 24’ extension ladder to a second story window ledge (behavior) without assistance (condition) in accordance with department standard operating guidelines (degree).

In the absence of properly constructed learning objectives followed by suitable content and activities, learning opportunities can and are often missed. On the fireground, we use an IAP and tactical objectives to set our people up for success—in the classroom, we set our people up for success by using a lesson plan that include learning objectives that are directly connected with content, activities, discussions, and an assessment.

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