Tag Archives: outcomes

so what, exactly, do you want them to learn

Earlier this week, I challenged us to think about teaching someone something this week. This post takes you down that road by helping you think about what, exactly, you are wanting to teach.


Teachers and speakers know all about outcomes.

But even we forget.

When we remember, however, we start our preparation for every training session, every lesson, every speech, by completing a simple sentence: “When I have finished speaking (teaching, whatever), my audience will be able to ___.”

Outcomes are about behaviors

a ruler on a study guide. measuring outcomesAn outcome is what you want an audience (whether a class or a small group or your friend Dave who can’t tell PEZ dispensers apart) to be able to do as a result of your interaction with them. It doesn’t apply to every interaction. Sometimes speaking is for entertainment or so everyone can say that they were together. In that case, the sentence reads, “when I have finished speaking I will have spoken.”

But if you want to help learning happen, whether in a formal session or in an informal “how do I do this” conversation, write an outcome.

  • It puts the emphasis on what your audience will be able to do.
  • It allows the audience behavior to be measured as a way to find out whether you did what you wanted to do.
  • It creates accountability.

Measuring abstract lessons

Good outcomes are stated in terms of measurable behavior. But what if what you are teaching isn’t measurable? If you are teaching someone how to change a lightbulb, you can easily test whether they know it by handing them a lightbulb and a fixture. If you are encouraging someone to be more faithful (to friends, to spouses, to God), how can you measure that?

Perhaps you could teach one way to know if you are sliding toward breaking faith and you could teach them that way. Perhaps you know that faithfulness is enhanced by focused time and you could explain ways to clear your schedule.

But wait, you say, the topic is “be more faithful.” If I talk about clearing my schedule, that’s too specific. I mean, they will walk out with some ideas about finding cheap dates or scheduling or finding a quiet place to pray or something, but that’s not my topic.

(I’ll let you read that again and decide whether you really want to raise that argument. Teaching that brings about change in lives or the world always involves behavior. Work til you find the behavior. Then teach it. It will foster faithfulness)

What if all I know is PEZ?

Some of you are teachers. You know this. But some people who read this post are not teachers. You don’t lead classes or small groups. You don’t give presentations to thousands of people on the internet.

I know. But you, sitting in your darkened room reading this post, interacting only with a couple people a day, you teach. Or you could.

What if you decided that the next time someone asks how to tell the difference between old and new Pez dispensers, you were going to teach them three ways to tell: patent numbers, mold codes, and place of manufacture.

When we have finished talking, my friend will be able to identify Pez dispensers by age markers.

You have five samples on hand. You show them three. You then give them the fourth as a text. They guess wrong. You review. You show them the fifth. They get it right. You give it to them.

They learned something. They know it. You know it.

As you teach something to someone this week, establish a simple measurable outcome.

(thanks to Rob Hatch for a bit of inspiration)



Deep in the heart of New York City a few weeks ago, I discovered that several trains going different places run on the same set of tracks. There are lots of tracks, that is true. There are layers of trains. But you can walk to the same point on the platform, and look at the same set of tracks, and still have to make a choice about which train to ride, about where to go.

I talked with a person today who was struggling to choose whether or not to talk with someone who had (unintentionally) hurt them. There was a set of tracks of reaction and response. But there was a choice about how to handle the situation, whether to confront in love or confront in pain or overlook in love or overlook in bitterness.

A friend resigned from a position this week, presenting a boss with the opportunity of climbing on the train of betrayal (“You are abandoning us”) or of celebration (“What a great opportunity!”). Another friend is looking at a serious situation with a child and trying to decide whether to accept the child’s behavior as right or God’s behavior as right. Another friend stood at the platform next to the tracks of death and wrestled with whether to climb on the train of grief with stops at despair and depression, or the train of faith with stops at short-term pain and celebration.

Usually the trains are pretty clearly marked, but the destinations aren’t always clear. And in the moment, when the train pulls into the station, there isn’t much time to decide. So we have to spend some time picking the right platform, look at the map, deciding where we want to go. That way, when the crisis happens, we have pre-decided our response.

Or we could just pick random stations and random tracks and random trains. Somehow, however, that feels like a huge waste of energy. Especially when the difference between wildly different parts of Manhattan (or life) is the difference of 4 minutes and one step.