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Brendon Cappelletti


Soft Skills Specialist Trainer

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Learning Objectives ‘will’ or ‘should’


Hi all I am having a debate with my L&D team about wheather the learing objectives use 'will or 'should' e.g By the end of this module you will/should be able to:..... I believe that we need to focus on the best possible outcome and use 'will'. It also has strong linkages to NLP and embedded commands. I would really like to hear other peoples comments and am open to ideas. Regards Brendon

10 Responses

  1. Will or should?

    I think there is a case for both will and should, I always think about how a learner will read into objectives: will suggests that there is a guaranteed outcome for the learner where as should suggests that he/she will have work to do or will need to concentrate in order to ‘pass’ or reach the required standard. maybe a mix of both could work depending on the module tasks.

    Good luck



  2. It’s not just ‘will’ or ‘should’ – the whole phrase matters

    Interesting thread, and I am a firm believer in behavioural learning objectives to guide design and make intended outcomes explicit to all stakeholders – learners, managers, client, whoever.

    My own objectives read  ‘If you apply what you learn after this event you will be able to…

    This is a very deliberate form of words as it does not infer an inappropriate degree of responsibility on us the facilitators, and places quite properly, plenty of this on the individual learner.

    You can download many of my outlines with this form of words and indicative workshop content in the ‘outlines’ section of my website

    Any more thoughts?

    Andrew Gibbons 

  3. whose objectives

    Hi  an interesting question….

    but to be able to answer it we first need to identify who’s objective it is?

    i.e. who is setting the objective – the learner, manager, trainer or organisation – for each will need to word it differently.

    What is important if it is truly a LEARNING objective rather then a TRAINING objective is that it needs to come from the learner themselves – for their reasons.

    This is where learning and training are very different and the organisation cannot dictate the objectives in a learning situation – learning is what the individual chooses to do or not to do. all we can do as trainers or the organisation is provide the opportunity – not the learning – that is the SOLE responsibility of the individual.

    NLP and pre-suppositions are great IF the individual is in a receptive state – do you have different goals and objectives for the pre delivery experience – i.e. to enable a receptive state to agree to the objectives….

  4. They Will

    Hi Brendon

    i believe that objectives should state ‘will’ as it then gives the learners confidence in your ability.  If you stand at the front of a room and say to them. ‘at the end of this session you should be able to interview someone’ then their confidence is going to falter.  Questions then enter their minds as to why they won’t they be able to interview, or talk to someone or whatever it is you are training them on.  Imagine getting on an aircraft and the pilot saying that we ‘should’ land OK, the panic and worry that would go through the passengers would be unbelievable.  You say we will land OK and the passengers will relax a bit more.  The same with learners at a training session. 

    Hope this helps



    I’m still a user of Should – as in TSSBAT: The Student Should Be Able To……

    The aim is mine.  If the student/learner/trainee (use whatever term you like) ends up being unable to….., I have to take responsibility ask myself why has that person been unable to…. and consider other ways to get there.

    Often of more importantance are the assessment criteria.  How will I or the students know that they have successfully ….


  6. Objectives


    For behavioural learning objectives the purest answer is ‘will’. But many use ‘should’ as long-standing custom and practice. I’m not sure whether to be impressed that you and your colleagues debate these fine details (I’m assuming that the big issues are all sorted) or whether to suggest you get out more!


  7. Learning outcomes – many levels


    Identifying learning outcomes is a multi level process for me which includes the following levels as a minimum:
    The learning outcomes I want the course to deliver and will be the measures I evaluate its success against e.g.:
    The attendees will be able to provide each other with specific, constructive feedback  
    The learning outcomes I want to achieve myself during the training ( My rule is that I must always have a learning outcome myself if I want to continue to improve) e.g.:
    I will pay equal visual attention to all attendees (assumes face to face training)
    Then there are the learning outcomes of the attendees. All attendees at my workshops have to have a productive learning outcome before we start. They have the course outline and outcomes to work with and can contact me also if they have questions about the content. Some sessions are quite short so attendees are required to identify a personal learning outcome as pre-work. This allows me to ensure they are expecting the right course and to find any additional support materials, articles, research which may help the particular group.  I regularly train teams in other countries and so there are often patterns of outcomes within teams reflecting operational or cultural themes allowing further tailoring of the session. 
    Example of a real personal outcome from a course recently:
    *To proactively participate in maintaining an excellent working relationship colleagues and external customers.
    To co-ordinate team activities across different regions/countries, taking into account different environments and cultures.
    To give constructive feedback without feeling that I need to apologise 
    Provide performance feedback in a concise and clear manner, focusing on the constructive professional part of the message
    Increased ability to encourage non-motivated colleagues to become interested, involved and active
     To work in different teams (world-wide) taking different cultures into consideration
    These are the outcomes that I review prior to the end of a session to ensure I have focused on the attendees needs.
    Outcomes can go much further and when I am building a new course I will focus on outcomes for the course, each segment, each exercise, some lines of delivery and maybe even a key word.  
    Cheers, Nick     
  8. Another option?
    Hi Brendan,

    What about ‘can’ instead of either will or should?

    For me a statement such as; ‘by the end of this course the trainee can operate heavy machinery’ tells me that the objective is achievable and it’s my choice to action.

    I think it’s a positive attitude statement and attitude is fundamental to training being effective.

    Regards, Helen

  9. Learning Objectives
    Hi All

    Thank you very much for your insight and experience.

    I used the word ‘debate’ in my posting and I suppose that implied that it was a big issue for us. The reality it was more of a discussion as we do have more pressing matters to deal with. I have thought about it and WILL use:

    When you apply the learnings from this module you will be able to:

    I understand that I have responsibilities as a facilitator to ensure the content, facilitation and environment encouage learning. At the end of the day the learner needs to take responsibility for the application.

    Great responses and thanks for the support!

  10. It’s really good to feel we help each other

    This has been a very positive thread, and I am very pleased to see a fellow practitioner seeking and getting help from a collaborative community.



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Brendon Cappelletti

Soft Skills Specialist Trainer

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