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
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
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.