Tip #103: Learning Objectives

three office workers

The fifth step in the comprehensive nine step LESSON PLANning Process is:


Learning objectives explain in specific and measurable terms what the learner will do as a result of the class instruction to: (a) learn specific knowledge or skills and (b) demonstrate that they have learned them.

Objectives are behavioral, which means that they involve specific actions or behaviors that can be observed and measured.

The effectiveness of the training will be determined based on whether or not the participants exhibit these behaviors during and after the training session.

When we add an active verb (appropriate for the learning level) to the essential content, we need to be sure that it is specific, observable, and measurable. For example, the following verbs are inappropriate because they are too vague and unclear to be particularly useful: process, care, learn, worry, understand, sense, believe, be aware, empathize, think, remember, feel, perceive, assume, try, focus, see, consider, and be familiar with. A more active verb will better describe the participant behavior and make it easier to measure or validate their performance.

At this step, we:

  1. Select action verbs appropriate for the identified learning levels. *
  2. Convert the essential factors into learner actions which are specific, observable, and measurable, using the learning level-appropriate action verbs. (These learner actions are the learning objectives).
  3. Ensure that there are sufficient learning objectives to accomplish all of the training goals.
  4. Ensure that the sequence of learner actions progresses through the levels of learning, where appropriate.
  5. If safety is a consideration, ensure that there is a learning objective that checks for comprehension prior to a learning objective that provides for application.
  6. Remedy any gaps in the logical sequence of events by adding in the missing learning objectives.

*There is a useful list of active verbs that can be used to signify different learning levels. The list is not exhaustive, so it does not include all possible verbs that might be appropriate.

Knowledge Comprehension Application
cite associate apply
count compare calculate
define contrast classify
identify convert change
indicate defend complete
label describe compute
list differentiate demonstrate
match discuss illustrate
name distinguish manipulate
outline estimate modify
recognize explain operate
record extend predict
reproduce extrapolate prepare
select generalize produce
state give relate
tabulate exemplify show
trace infer solve
write interpret tabulate
interpolate transcribe
paraphrase use
predict utilize






analyze arrange appraise
break down categorize assess
detect combine compare
diagram compile conclude
differentiate compose contrast
discriminate construct criticize
distinguish create critique
group devise discriminate
illustrate design evaluate
infer generate grade
outline modify justify
point out organize interpret
relate outline measure
select plan predict
separate rearrange prescribe
subdivide reconstruct rank
summarize relate test
transform reorganize recommend
revise validate
rewrite verify

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