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Basic Characteristics of Learning Objectives

Before we explore some of the best characteristics of learning objectives, let us look at the following three learning objectives.

When you have finished reading this blog, you will be able to

1. Know the characteristics of learning objectives.

2. Describe the characteristics of learning objectives.

3. List out the top four characteristics of learning objectives.

Out of these objectives, which according to you is the most appropriate? If I am not wrong, your priority would be the third learning objective. What made you choose that particular one? The reason is that the third learning objective is the most specific and measurable of the three. Subconsciously your mind has confirmed that this learning objective spells out clearly the key takeaway of this course.

According to Robert Mager, Performance, Conditions, and Criterion help to create meaningful objectives. Performance describes what the learners will be able to do, Condition specifies under what conditions the learners must be able to do it, and Criterion helps to create meaningful learning objectives.

Essential Attributes of Learning Objectives

Let us now look into some characteristics of learning objectives that will enable an instructional designer to frame learning objectives efficiently.


The learning objective must be simple and brief. Learners have to immediately understand their learning outcomes. An instructional designer must avoid using long paragraphs and complicated words. The goals must also be realistic and achievable. For example, “Explain the importance of eLearning” is simpler than “Comprehensibly rationalize the importance of eLearning.”


Before framing appropriate learning objectives, instructional designers must find answers to a few questions such as:

  • What are the learners supposed to learn?
  • What is the learner’s prior knowledge and skill on the content or topic?
  • What are the learners’ preferred styles of learning?

Answering these questions will help the instructional designers understand their audience and frame the learning objectives accordingly. This can be well understood by this scenario.

Once a third standard student came up to me and asked me to define a right angle. I started explaining to him all about the Pythagorean Theorem. He was very confused because it is too early for him to understand the concept of Pythagorean Theorem. I failed to use a simple logic that anything in the shape of the letter ‘L’ forms a right angle. So it is very important to know your learners’ background before developing learning objectives.

Intent and performance specific:

The learning objectives of a course should clearly specify the intent of the course and what it is expected to achieve. There should not be any space for misinterpretation. A relevant verb can be selected from Bloom’s Taxonomy to describe the required behavior of the objective.

Learning objectives should also specify performance. In other words, it should specify or state what learners are expected to do after the course completion. A very important point to be noted is that each and every learner taking up the course should be able to do something new and better than before.

Also ensure that the learning objectives are framed correctly. For example, if you are going to teach learners about the parts of a machine and you frame the learning objective as, “By the end of this program, learners will be able to operate a machine”, then this will confuse the learners as their learning objective is only to learn the parts of the machine.

Aligned to assessment:

Assessments must be created in alignment with the learning objectives and content. If the learners have completed the assessments successfully, it means that they have achieved the learning objectives.

If you are teaching your learners how to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI) and ask them questions like “Which country has the heaviest children in Asia?”, then it would be illogical as your main motive was to ensure that the learners understand how to calculate BMI and not mandatorily know which country had the heaviest children in Asia. The effectiveness of any learning objective can be known only by assessing learners on it.

As they say, setting clear goals and objectives is the first step to success. Similarly, framing the best learning objectives based on the above-mentioned characteristics will ensure that the objectives of a course are achieved.

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