Train The Trainer

Constructing Learning Objectives

What is a Learning Objective?

A Learning Objective is a statement that defines what the participant is expected to learn from the training course, or a session within the course, and be able to demonstrate this at the end.

The participant gets a clear idea of what they are about to learn and what is expected of them.  The trainer has the essential goal and guidelines for the session or topic.  The evaluation of the course effectiveness can be measured.

A Learning Objective must:

  • be clearly written
  • contain a specific action or behaviour
  • state the standard or criteria to meet
  • outline any condition or restriction that will apply
  • be measurable

A Learning Objective indicates that something has to be learned beforehand.  It must contain who has to complete the action that is to be performed, to what standard it is to be completed and state any conditions under which the action is to be performed.

For example “By the end of this session you will be able to swim breaststroke and complete 2 lengths of the pool without putting your feet on the bottom”.

A Learning Objective is something the participant aims to achieve during the course.


What are the characteristics of a Learning Objective?

Learning Objectives should be SMART:

S       Specific                say exactly what action the participant will be able to do

M     Measurable         observable during or at the end of the training course

A      Attainable           achievable by the participant

R      Relevant              to the participant and tasks expected of them in the organisation

T      Time-based         achievable by the end of the course


What are the key components?

Learning Objectives often commence with “By the end of this session, you will be able to…”

So let’s take it from there.

Ending with “be able to…” indicates that we need a verb, of which there are many really useful ones and some that unfortunately do not have a place in a good learning objective.  This is the behaviour that is required.

Bearing in mind that the learning objective needs to be measurable, we need to set the criteria or standard that is to be met.

Finally, we need to state any condition under which the assessment will take place, such as the availability of certain tools or whether reference material can be used or not.

Let’s take each in turn and delve a bit further into the guidelines.  A list of Behaviour, Standards and Conditions examples is provided at the end of this blog.

Behaviour (performance)

The behaviour or performance needs to be stated with an action verb.  Avoid Know, Understand and Learn amongst others.  How will I, as the trainer, know that you did learn the topic and now understand?

It also needs to be an action that you can observe and measure.  Activities such as assembling a component, wiring a plug, making a table, can be observed and ticked off against a list of elements they need to perform.  Use verbs such as list, label (a diagram) etc for information that the participant has to retain and recall.


Label the large bones in the arm

Here the word Label is the behaviour

Standard (criteria)

This describes the required level of performance, the degree of accuracy (minimum and/or maximum), perhaps an output level, or a time frame in which a task needs to be performed.


Label the 3 large bones in the arm correctly

Here the number 3 and correctly have been added to indicate the standard required.



The conditions under which the assessment or observation takes place on a course will be different from the same task being carried out in the workplace.  The condition is there to guide them in the learning.  You can specify that they are not allowed to look at notes or ask colleagues.  These are conditions specific to the training course and the achievement of the learning objective.


Label the 3 large bones in the arm correctly using the diagram provided and without reference to notes

To set the conditions under which the action is to be performed, there is mention of the diagram that will be provided and that no referring to notes is allowed.


A quick note about time.  If the action needs to be completed in a specific time frame back at work, then include this as a standard.  If, however, the time frame is due to restrictions in the learning environment, for example you are allowing 10 minutes for the action, whereas at work an hour would be allowed, then it should be included as a condition.  The standard and condition may need to be ‘at least 3 within 10 minutes’, so that you specify what you reasonably expect in the shorter time.


By the end of this blog you will be able to construct a measurable learning objective containing the 3 components, with reference to the Training Aims and Objectives resource page.

Our course, Training Skills For Better Performance, includes writing learning objectives.

If you want to know more, please contact us on or get in touch using the details contained on the Contact page of our website.


15 Jul 2019


Appendix – Constructing Learning Objectives



List the characteristics of a good communicator

Open a bottle of wine

Identify the names of elements in the periodic table from their symbols

Type of LearningExample Action Verbs
KnowledgeDefine, list, name, select, state

Describe, discuss, explain, arrange, organise

Apply, demonstrate, operate, use, open

Compare, appraise, select, assess, replace

SkillShow, imitate, mend

Demonstrate, perform, reassemble, construct

Tailor, solve, redesign

AttitudeFollow, choose, describe, name

Justify, explain, present, select

Distinguish, justify, propose




List the 10 characteristics of a good communicator

Open a bottle of wine without leaving any cork in the wine

Identify the names of the 8 precious metal elements in the periodic table from their symbols 

Ways of indicating standards
PercentageWithin 80% accuracy
PrecisionWithin 2 mm
QualityWithout damage, no wastage
SafetyWithout risk, following H&S regulations
Time60 words per minute, within 10 minutes




List the 10 characteristics of a good communicator without reference to notes.

Open a bottle of wine without leaving any cork in the wine using a standard corkscrew.

Identify from memory the names of the 8 precious metal elements in the periodic table from their symbols provided in the assessment.

Ways of indicating conditions
ResourcesUsing waste material only
Tools and equipmentUsing a hacksaw, with a calculator
SituationIn a roleplay on the course
HelpUnaided, without reference to help
TimeIn a 10 minute roleplay






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