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Year : 2002  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 362-369

The Ambiguous and Bewitching Power of Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes Leads to Confusing Statements of Learning Objectives

Education of Health Personnel, 15 Avenue du Mail, CH-1205 Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence Address:
J J Guilbert
Consultant, Education of Health Personnel, 15 Avenue du Mail, CH-1205 Geneva
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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The words ''knowledge'', ''skills'' and ''attitudes'' are given different meanings by health personnel when discussing educational issues. Ambiguity is known as a handicap to ef.cient communication. In the design of a curriculum the quality of the de.nition of learning objectives plays a fundamental role. If learning objectives lack clarity, learners and teachers will face operational dif.culties. As Robert Mager said, ''If you are not certain of where you are going you may very well end up somewhere else and not even know it''. Knowledge is not only memory of facts but what you do with it. The complexity of human behaviour should not be underestimated. This is why educational objectives need active non-ambiguous verbs in order to achieve better communication between teachers and learners and to assess that complexity. This is why I suggest using the expression intellectual skill (or competence) as meaning ''a rational decision or act''. Sensomotor skill (or competence) would replace ''skills'' as presently used and cover only ''acts which require a neuromuscular coordination''. Interpersonal communication skill (or competence) would replace ''attitude(s)'' and be limited to ''verbal and non-verbal relation between persons''. As the level of validity of assessment of learners' competencies is linked to the clarity of learning objectives, it is hoped that the above suggestions will raise the overall level of validity of the evaluation system. This is why it is important that everybody understands, in the same manner, the meaning of a learning objective. It will help learners to focus their learning efforts on the right target. It will help teachers to ensure the relevance to health needs of their teaching and the validity of assessment instruments. In both cases it will be bene.cial to the health of the population.

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