Writing Learning Objectives

Good learning objectives capture the essence of a learning solution. From the results of a gap analysis to how the solution will be measured, they are a snapshot of what the ADDIE cycle will look like. They have multiple audiences: business owners, designers and learners must all find the right answers in every learning objective.

In addition to Bloom’s cognitive domain map and some sample verbs, I’m adding two important checkpoints as part of the writing learning objectives process. First, ensure that it is clear “what” will be learned. I often find that a great deal of content is in fact reference or a job aid, but not necessarily something that must be learned. It is also important to state “why” learning it is relevant to the learners and to the business.

The second checkpoint ensures that we will be able to measure results by describing specific, observable and measurable goals. Being specific means carefully avoiding verbs such as “consider”, “be familiar” or “see”. They are ambiguous and hard if not impossible to assess.

Should every learning objective follow these rules? I tend to break the rule on occasion, leaving space for humor, participation and learners who want to go beyond the scope of the solution. Still, I keep this handy reference present whenever I’m writing learning objectives.

Writing Learning Objectives


  1. This is very helpful. Robert Mager is the dean of learning objectives – building on Bloom. And he included measurement criteria in his objectives. When was the last time you saw measurement criteria in an objective?

    • Don, thanks for the note. I would not expect to see measurement criteria consistently included in learning objectives that have multiple audiences, except perhaps in some contexts such as compliance where criteria can be concisely articulated. Any resources you would recommend to learn more about Mager’s contribution?

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