The Unintentional Trainers Guide to Learning Objectives

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end goalWhen I start working with a new client, typically we’ll pick a particular project and work through it from beginning to end in detail.  This can either be done retrospectively as a review or live as the project is being developed, designed and then ultimately delivered.

One of my most common conversations when reviewing a project goes a bit like this (and I’m paraphrasing, obviously!):

Client:  I’d like to take a look at this project, it didn’t deliver what I/We needed it too.

Me:  So what did you want it to deliver?

Client:  Well, we wanted it solve problem XX.

Me:  Okay, lets start by taking a look at your learning objectives and work from there to find out where things went wrong.

Client:  Aaahh, learning objectives.  I didn’t map those out exactly, but we knew we were working towards solving problem XX so built the training around that.

All too often, people think that knowing the problem they want to address is enough, that they can develop an adequate training solution with that information alone, and that’s quite simply not the case.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I know very few people enjoy setting learning objectives; they seem tedious and time consuming.  But they do have to be done.  They provide you with your roadmap of what individuals need to learn.  They are what ensures that you develop something which is actually fit for purpose, having the objectives written down will help you to stay focused during the design and development of the learning solution (it’s all too easy to go off on a tangent as you will think of lots of great things to share with delegates) and they are what helps you attract the right people to your session.

So, if you are going to make just one resolution this year, please let it be this:  Write effective learning objectives for EVERY piece of training/facilitation that you design, develop and deliver.

N.B:  Oh, and just as a wee aside, don’t get hung up on names or terminology.  It doesn’t matter whether they are called learning goals, learning outcomes, learning objectives, or any other variation of the theme, what is important is that you have a clearly written down list of the things you want someone to be able to do by the end of your programme/session/webinar etc.



Founder of Zostera Ltd and The Trainers CPD Club. I've worked in L&D for over 16 years across both the public and private sectors.

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