Writing Effective Learning Objectives

Clearly defined learning objectives provides a framework for curricular development and guides program planning. Whether you are writing simulated clinical scenarios, deciding what equipment and resources to use, or developing course materials, it is helpful to re-examine the learning objectives.

Immersive and simulation-based programs are especially effective at teaching behavior and interpersonal skills and clinical knowledge. Therefore, when writing learning objectives, think about the behavior or performance changes you would like to effect in your learners. Some questions to consider are:

  • What are the gaps between best practice and current practice in the field?
  • What the needs of learners in the field?
  • How do you expect learner behavior to change as a result of participation in the course?
  • What should the learner be able to do, or do differently, after participating in the course?

Another important consideration is how to plan to objectively measure learner outcomes or how well your learning objectives were met. Using verbs that that are measurable actions (e.g. asses, diagnose, perform) is preferable to subjective or internal actions that are difficult to evaluate (e.g. think, understand).

Examples of specific and well-written learning objectives:

  • List the 6 diagnostic criteria of disease X
  • Develop treatment plans for patients with disease Y, incorporating evidence-based management guidelines and clinical trial data.