In the world of L&D, clear and measurable learning objectives are foundational for successful training programs. They communicate outcomes that learners can expect to achieve through participation in the training. When written well, objectives provide course development guidance for trainers and set end goals for learners. When done poorly or omitted, confusion and misunderstandings can be the result. Keep the following tips in mind, and you’ll be able to write concise and targeted objectives that will serve to direct training and empower learners to reach their full potential!
KNOW YOUR PURPOSE:
Knowing your purpose means determining exactly what you aim to teach through your training. This enables you to approach the design process and write objectives with the participants’ learning in mind. Purpose provides guidance for trainers and can help ensure the training aligns with your organization’s overarching goals. Determining your purpose is the first step in developing strong learning objectives.
Clear learning objectives reduce confusion and help learners focus on the knowledge and skills they need to acquire. Each objective should complete the phrase “the learner will be able to …”
As you write, try to focus on a single outcome. Having one outcome per objective provides clarity and direction for both trainers and learners. Combining multiple outcomes in one statement can be confusing and lead to ambiguous interpretations.
Utilize actionable verbs and specifically describe what learners should be able to do at the end of the training. Vague or general statements don’t provide clear direction. Aim for specific, concise descriptions of the end goal. For example, “understand the basics of project management” can be improved to “define the five phases of project management.”
Clearly written objectives communicate the training goals, increasing the likelihood that participants will stay engaged and committed to the process.
MAKE IT MEASURABLE:
Measurable learning objectives help trainers and learners assess progress, identify problem areas, and make adjustments. To create clear and measurable learning objectives, use actionable verbs (such as identify, demonstrate, solve, explain, calculate) and set specific criteria that indicate when the objective has been achieved. The specified criteria could be a quantitative target, a proficiency level, or a specific performance metric. If applicable, state the conditions under which the learners will perform the task.
A measurable learning objective might look like this:
- “The learner will be able to complete a full maintenance checkup in an hour or less.”
- “The learner will be able to process five new items per day.”
Clear and measurable learning objectives provide a basis for assessment and evaluation, helping trainers and learners track progress and determine a program’s effectiveness.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:
Purposeful, clear and measurable learning objectives create a sense of direction and motivation among learners. They act as a compass, guiding learners and instructors through the learning journey. Here are a few examples of how vague or imprecise objectives can be strengthened by incorporating the principles discussed:
1. In a Language Course:
- Objective: “The learner will be able to learn Spanish grammar.”
- Improved Objective: “The learner will be able to conjugate regular verbs in the present tense and form sentences using basic Spanish grammar rules, such as subject-verb agreement and noun-adjective agreement.”
2. In an Excel Course:
- Objective: “The learner will be able to use Excel for projects.”
- Improved Objective: “The learner will be able to create linked functions between Excel worksheets.”
3. In a Cyber Security Training Program:
- Objective: “The learner will be able to understand scams by cybercriminals.”
- Improved Objective: “The learner will be able to discuss the role of clickbait and social engineering in cybersecurity attacks.”
As a training company, we aim to write purposeful, clear and measurable learning objectives so that our learners complete each course with a full understanding of the material. As L&D professionals, our responsibility lies in empowering learners with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Strong learning objectives are powerful tools that can help us meet that responsibility.
So, the next time you are working to design a training program or an educational course, be sure to invest the time and effort to create clear and measurable learning objectives that are clear and measurable.