What Is a Learning Objective?

[This is the the first in a series of posts about learning objectives. We’ve now compiled all the posts into a single downloadable guide to writing learning objectives if you want to check that out.]

If you’re new to the learning and training worlds, you may not yet know what a learning objective is.

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. Use the information you gathered during the Training Needs Assessment and the Analysis (or first) phase of the ADDIE instructional design process to create your objectives.

Once you have your learning objectives, you can use them as guides while you:

  • Create your training content. Create content that teaches your learners to perform each of the learning objectives. Likewise, don’t add additional content that doesn’t help your learner perform the objectives. Resist the temptation to add more information because it’s “interesting.” Remember that in learning, less is more.
  • Create your assessments. Create assessments that accurately assess your learner’s ability to perform the learning objectives. Remember to assess the learner’s ability to perform all objectives. And don’t add assessment items for anything other than the objectives.

Interesting side note: Some instructional designers create their learning objectives first, their assessment items second, and then create their training materials. They do this because they think it helps keep them focused on their learning objectives. If this would work for you, go for it.

Hopefully you now see the value in creating learning objectives. They really help you stay focused on the ultimate goal, which is leading your learners to new behaviors that contribute to your company’s overall goals and success. We’ll write more about learning objectives in future posts, so stay tuned.

Still curious? Read our follow-up blog post: Why Create Learning Objectives?


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.

2 thoughts on “What Is a Learning Objective?

  1. Jeffrey, this is such an informational post! It explains learning objectives and how to create them in a straightforward, digestible way. Are there specific models you prefer, such as SMART goals or the ABCD model? I find that breaking them down into categories can sometimes simplify the process and keeps me on track of stating exactly what it is I want the learners to achieve.

    1. Alexandra, thanks.

      I try to use both ABCD and SMART.

      First, I start with ABCD. I think it’s not always important to state the “a” (actor), but it’s important to remember your objective is something your learner must satisfy. The B (behavior) is essential. I find that sometimes there’s no need for a C and a D, but it’s worth thinking about it.

      After that, I think it’s worth running what you’ve got through “SMART” to see if everything’s good.

      Not sure if you noticed this, but there’s a guide at the bottom of this post that addresses some of that in more detail.

      What are your own thoughts on this?

      Thanks for writing!

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