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Student Learning Objectives

Adapted, with permission, from the Stony Brook University Preceptor Manual and Each One, Teach Once, Effective Clinical Teaching in Midwifery, University of Maryland School of Nursing

A tenet of adult learning is that learners should define their own learning objectives. A learning objective is a statement of what the student would like be able to do at the end of her/his clinical experienceor what she/he would like to focus on during their time with you in the clinical setting.

New students may sometimes have difficulty articulating their objectives. If they know little of what the skills are that a midwife needs in the ambulatory or inpatient setting, they cannot define objectives. Often faculty will work with students to clarify their learning objectives before they come to the clinical setting. Students can use their clinical course objectives as a source of guidance or may refer to the ACNM core competencies for ideas.

As the preceptor, you can help students clarify learning objectives. You may discuss with her or him what you consider to be essential skills in a particular setting and for the particular clinical experience you offer. For example, managing an induction of labor may not be possible or expected in the birth center setting whereas insertion of internal fetal scalp electrodes may be necessary in the tertiary care center setting.

Student learning objectives need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. They need to be written in a way that reflects those criteria. For example, a student may write that she/he wants to “be better at hand skills for delivery”. While the goal is appropriate, the objective is not specific or measurable enough. It would be hard to know if it is achievable or when it has been achieved. It may or may not be realistic or timely. To restate the goal as a learning objective, we might say “With help and oversight from my preceptor, I will deliver at least three babies using correct hand skills as evaluated by my preceptor”. Clearly identifying what constitutes successful or acceptable completion of an objective is key to making objectives measurable.

Objectives will address all areas of skill involved in midwifery. Skills are broken up into three domains of learning: Cognitive – the domain of perceptions and information, Psychomotor – the domain of skills carried out through physical movement or manipulation and Affective – the domain of attitudes, interests and values.

A learning objective in the cognitive realm might be: With the oversight of my preceptor, I will do oral contraceptive counseling for at least two clients including an appropriate assessment of client suitability for the method and teaching regarding use, risks and benefits of the method.

A learning objective in the psychomotor realm might be: With the oversight of my preceptor, I will repair at least two second degree lacerations including using correct technique to place local anesthesia.

A learning objective in the affective realm might be: With the oversight of my preceptor, I will effectively work with an interpreter in at least 10 visit being careful to explain things in simple terms and talk slowly enough to allow for ongoing interpretation.

Educational programs will have established learning objectives for each clinical course that the students take. Those objectives are intended to guide the course instructors and to clarify the expectations for successful completion of the course. Those objectives provide a structure for the coursework. The student learning objectives grow out of those objectives but also reflect the student’s individual priorities and their assessment of their learning needs.


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