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Fiona Pollock

Zostera Ltd

Learning Consultant & Coach

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3 questions to answer when writing effective learning objectives


As we covered in our blog last week (, learning objectives are statements which describe what a learner will be able to do as a result of undertaking the learning.  In order for the learning objective (sometimes also known as a learning outcome) to be effective it needs to be well written.  This short post will give you an easy-to-follow structure to write effective learning objectives.

When writing your learning objectives, all you need to do is answer three key questions:

1.  What do you want delegates to do? (Performance)
2.  To what standard? (Standard)
3.  Under what conditions? (Condition)

Answer these three questions and you'll have a well written,  effective objective.  Lets take a look at each in more detail:

1.  What do you want delegates to do?

The performance component of the objective stipulates what the learner will be able to do after completing the learning. For examples:

By then end of this course delegates will be able to:

- Demonstrate effective interview note taking
- Apply recruitment and selection policies

It is important that you identify verbs which are measurable and specific.  For this reason, try and avoid using the words 'know' or 'understand'.  An individual can be capable of "knowing" but not be able to apply the knowledge or use it in a meaningful way, which ultimately means the learning has been ineffective.  

Whilst it is possible to measure a participants "understanding" it is much clearer to use a performance word, such as "discuss",  "demonstrate" or "clarify".  By using behavioural words you are still testing delegates "understanding" but you are also allowing them to demonstrate their understanding in a way that is more easily measured/evidenced.

2.  To what standard

This sets out the standard or level that you expect the delegates to achieve at the end of the learning, for example:

Bake a cake, which tastes nice.

The standard here is that the cake is palatable or "tastes nice".

Another example would be;

Record accurate minutes of a meeting

The standard here is that they must be "accurate".

3.  Under what conditions?

Lastly it is important that your learning objectives indicate a condition.  This sets out the circumstances or parameters under which the standards should be fulfilled.  For example;

Record accurate minutes of the meeting using shorthand

The condition in this example is "using shorthand".

To be truly effective, both the standard and the condition for any learning objective should be unambiguous, as this allows performance to be properly gauged.

Do you have other approaches that you use for setting effective learning objectives?  Tell us about them by commenting below

Author Profile Picture
Fiona Pollock

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock

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