How should I write learning objectives?

I encourage you to focus first on what people need to do, not what they need to know. If you use action mapping, each behavior or action that you write could be called a performance objective. We aren’t describing what people need to know, which is often how people interpret “learning objective,” even if they avoid using “know” and use supposedly better terms like “identify” or “define.”

Of course, for many actions people do need to know stuff, and if our analysis of the situation shows that they don’t know it, we should provide the missing information for them. But our focus is on designing activities that help people practice making the decisions they need to make on the job.

Here’s a blog post about the difference: Why you want to focus on actions, not learning objectives

If you’re wondering whether you should list objectives at the beginning of a course, you might check this blog post: Makeover: Turn objectives into motivators

The approach I described in that (old!) post is still what I recommend — to tell learners up front what’s in it for them, rather than to list dry teacher-style objectives. If I were to write that post again, I’d emphasize that the motivating “objectives” should appear right away at the beginning of the material, followed by an interesting, challenging activitiy. This is in contrast to the conventional approach of welcome, introduction, objectives, more introduction, information presentation….and finally an activity.

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