No Image Available

Garry Platt


Senior Consultant

Read more from Garry Platt

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

7 reasons: Why we need to kill boring ‘learning objectives’!


There's an excellent article here on why we need to kill the recitation of learning objectives to people attending learning programmes.

11 Responses

  1. as Garry says…

    …an excellent, thought provoking and useful article!



  2. Confused

    Without naming names I have just witnessed "the best of the best" "most innovative training ever…"

    This is what happened…

    Long list of objectives to start (they called it a "roadmap")

    The "innovative training" was described in great detail on the wordiest slides I have seen for a while

    Clumsy handouts with clumsy wording placed between un-thought out groups who spent most of the allotted exercise time talking about the weather outside and whats for lunch because the exercise was too complicated

    Dodgy objectives are the very tip of the iceberg that is out there in terms of bad practice…even by "the most innovative trainers ever" That cost a fortune btw!!

    Thankfully there was a plus side…they didn't mention the word "fun"

  3. Objectives

    Excuse me for being confused by the article. It starts with lambasting practitioners for using learning objectives, changes direction slightly in the middle and finishes with a statement about not dismissing them!?

    Learning objectives, stated clearly in behavioural terms are crucial to the learner in understanding where they are going and more importantly what they are expected to achieve and likewise to the facilitator. How can you get where you are going if you don't have a clearly stated behavioural objective, stated in the 'behaviour', 'standard', 'condition' vernacular.

    I don't think any trainer in their right mind would simply launch into their programme objectives without first having built some rapport, meeting and greeting delegates personally etc; covered off what their expectations and experience in the topic is etc.

    I agree with Steve, there's loads of bad practise out there, specifically around the design of robust learning objectives, but to suggest in some way that (as the writer of the article has throughout) that they're a waste of time and almost valueless is beyond me.

    Not sure what this guy is trying to prove?



  4. Objectives

    To be fair to the blogger he did state that you can't produce training material without clearly stated objectives…at the end of the blog..; but I agree with Adrian about the point of the article?

    In my world we send objectives prior to the course to ensure we get exactly the right people on the course so there is no need to do the blah blah blah slide after telling them there are no planned fire evacuations today!

  5. The Objectives Mantra

    Adrian – I think Donald summarised his position in a reasonably clear way in the final paragraph:

     "Note that I’m not criticising the use of learning objectives or learning outcomes, as defined by Mager, in the design of courses. That’s a skill and practice that’s far too often absent in learning professionals. My arguments focus on boring learning objectives made explicit to learners at the start of a course."

     I have observed trainers and developers who ‘engage’ their leaners via a series of PowerPoint slides containing each and every objective which are littered with descriptors like ‘understand’ ‘be aware of’ ‘be familiar with’. They readout the objectives one by one like some mantra with little to no concern for learning but are more focussed on following some chronic procedure.

    I agree with Steve, decently written objectives should be sent out beforehand, so that learners can both orientate themselves to the programme and also remove themselves if the content doesn’t fit their requirements. I might reference the objectives at the start of an event and would almost certainly talk about the direction and content of the course but I do not recite the list of objectives the course is intended to address.

    For me the article emphasised the need for the Developers and Trainers to think about what they’re doing and not follow a rigid and prescriptive sequence which often is rooted in custom and practise rather than results and impact.

    Donald Clarke makes reference to Robert F. Mager but doesn’t mention his book; ‘Preparing Instructional Objectives’ which was published in 1984 and is still in print. It is without doubt the best book ever written on writing training objectives and avoiding the problem of ill written objectives.

  6. Business focussed and learner centred

    I am really enjoying this discussion and glad to see common sense prevailing. I think Donald Clarke was being provocative in his use of the word "boring". Of course learners will not be engaged if the objectives are not relevant to them or the business. 

    I have long observed that many trainers do not engage their stakeholders to determine how the organisation will benefit from the training. This leads to "woolly" and irrelevant(or "boring") objectives. They further shoot themselves in the foot by using such words as "understand" or "know". They also fail to realise that learners are also stakeholders.

    So here is the thing, all trainers should be able to set aims, organisational objectives, performance objectives and learning objectives and know the difference between them. If anyone is interested in those differences, I wrote a blog some months ago about those definitions. 

    When writing the objectives, the verbs you choose are critical, as is knowing the difference between verbs that can be used to write objectives for knowledge, skills or attitudinal learning gaps. Eliminating "woolly" verbs has to be a priority. make them specific. I am a real anorak on this subject and welcome any comments on a short video I put together on writing objectives using Robert Mager's framework.

    My last word on this subject for now will be on about how to make it engaging, when sharing the workshop objectives. These days I opt for the objectives being on a flipchart and over coffee and introductions, the learners are invited to add their own objectives along side of them. This way they know explicitly what the organisation expects them to learn, but also that you as the facilitator want to meet their objectives.

    The best organisations, in my humble opinion, involve the learners at the needs analysis phase and find out what they think they need to know. This way they acknowledge that learners are also stakeholders and that the objectives are best when they are both business focussed and learner centred.


  7. Fun in training

    ……Steve……we can have fun in training, the brain releases dopamine into the blood stream when we do and keeps us engaged…….we need to distinguish between being "child-like" where we explore, create and discover and "childish" where we do games and exercises just for the fun of it…..don't make fun a dirty word…..

  8. Fun


    You can have as much fun as you like but if someone tells me to have fun I will be gone before they can say Ho Ho Ho…

  9. Fun


    I would not dream of telling you or anyone to have fun……… I may suggest it is okay to have fun for the reasons I stated above….have great day……


  10. Fun fun fun


    Please don't even suggest fun…or tell me it's ok to have fun…just do what you do and what happens happens…being told how to behave and feel is a real pet hate of mine. 

    Have a lovely evening





No Image Available
Garry Platt

Senior Consultant

Read more from Garry Platt

Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.

Thank you!