How to Write Learning Objectives: The Ultimate Guide

Ultimate Guide to Writing Learning Objectives

Learning objectives are a key part of effective training materials. Create and use them correctly, and you’re well on your way to helping your employees learn the knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need.

Neglect to use them, or misuse them, and you’re setting yourself at a serious disadvantage right out of the gate.

At the bottom of this page, you can download a pretty-near-definitive guide that covers a lot of the basics about learning objectives. If you’re new to training or looking for a refresher, the guide may be helpful.



The guide that you can download below includes extensive information on the following subjects:

What Is a Learning Objective?

To put it simply, a learning objective describes what your learners should be able to do after they complete your training materials. In many cases, you’ll probably have a series of learning objectives instead of just one.

You should create your learning objectives before creating your training content. Once you have them, you can use your learning objectives as guides while you create your training content and design your training assessments.

Why Create Learning Objectives?

There are several key reasons to use learning objectives in your training materials. Implemented correctly, learning objectives serve to:

  • Outline & specify a learner’s needs
  • Provide clear expectations
  • Aid self-assessment throughout training
  • Identify important training topics
  • Identify unnecessary training topics
  • Help create assessment items
  • Organize training materials
  • Provide ideal evaluation of performance
  • Provide ideal evaluation of material effectiveness
  • Help determine training material assignments

Creating SMART Learning Objectives

In learning and development circles, SMART is an acronym (fancy word!) that represents five different criteria to determine if you’ve created a good learning objective. According to the SMART method, your learning objectives should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely & time-bound

The 4 Parts of a Learning Objective

A simple way to make sure you’re building a useful learning objective is to use the ABCD method. Each letter in ABCD stands for a different part of your learning objective. These di fferent parts answer four questions about your objective: who, what, how, and how well.

  • A – for Actor
  • B – for Behavior
  • C – for Conditions
  • D – for Degree

Additional Notes:

This guide includes all or nearly all of the traditional learning & development wisdom about learning objectives. In some cases, trainers have recently decided to depart from some of these traditional rules of thumb. For example, there’s a little debate about whether or not it’s necessary or helpful to present the learning objectives as a list to the learners in the beginning of training (some trainers believe you should leave that out, or that you should present that information in a more engaging, exciting manner than dry list).

To that point, here’s a nice article about different ways to present learning objectives to your learning audience.

In addition, once you’ve got the hang of the traditional basics, you may later realize you don’t always have to create a four-part objective, or you may decide never to use a “knowledge” learning objective and always create “skill” objectives, or…

You get the point. There’s more to learn. But like we said, this will get the basics for you.

Once you know the basics, you can decide which basics you want to use and which you don’t.

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How to Write Learning Objectives

All the basics about writing learning objectives for training materials.

Download Free Guide

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

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