Ger’s Learning Notes #46: Learning objectives

31 August, 2022| Ger Driesen| 3 min read

Really?! An episode about learning objectives?! Yes, really!

Learning objectives is the 101 topic of learning, so forgive me if you think that I question your intelligence. That will never be my intention. Learning objectives seems like a topic that is so self-evident that it doesn’t need any attention. And that’s why it does.

The original work around learning objectives was done during the sixties of the previous century. I learnt about it during my first year of teacher training, which was also in the previous century. I never paid much attention to the topic anyway, thinking I knew enough and was able to apply that knowledge in the right way. But hey, it’s been almost 60 years since Robert Mager published his first ideas about learning objectives, and some interesting research has been done.

I was pleasantly surprised by the new and very relevant things I learnt while doing my research for this episode of the Learning Notes. Like always, I curated the four best resources for you. Read (or watch) them, and see if you’re able to finish my next sentence.

After checking out the four resources of this episode of the Learning Notes, you are able to…

PS I’m always curious what’s on your mind, so don’t hesitate to drop me a line!

Learning Objectives: Goal!?! - By Mirjam Neelen & Paul Kirschner

What’s it about?

This blogpost is a great overview of important aspects related to learning objectives.

Why read it?

  • As always, Mirjam Neelen and Paul Kirschner base their work on evidence by scientific work. So you will learn about learning objectives in an evidence-informed way.

  • You'll learn that words matter, as explained by the ‘double-edged sword’ metaphor.

  • It’s a great overview and introduction to some of the other sources presented in this episode of the Learning Notes.

Where to find it?

Learning Objectives - A Research-Inspired Odyssey - by Will Thalheimer

What’s it about?

In this video, Will Talheimer presents a bit of history and the most important research findings related to learning objectives.

Why watch it?

  • Learn how learning objectives work (or not).

  • Be aware of the ‘double-edged sword’ (again).

  • Get answers to the important question: for whom are learning objectives useful and how?

Where to find it?

Making ‘learning objectives’ explicit: A skeptic converted? - by Andrew Watson

What’s it about?

Andrew Watson shares his scepticism about learning objectives and comes up with some great answers for himself, and you!

Why read it?

  • Learn about the research results of a classical experiment, comparing results with the use of learning objectives to not using learning objectives at all.

  • Learn about the exciting alternative to mix learning objectives with pre-tests and how to do it.

  • Learn how you use the following statement to create alternative, more effective learning objectives: ‘Don’t ask students to put information into their brains. Instead, ask them to pull information out of their brains’.

Where to find it?

Ten reasons: Why we need to kill boring ‘learning objectives’! - by Donald Clark

What’s it about?

A critical note related to the use of learning objectives, as you can expect from Donald Clark.

Why read it?

  • Some other perspectives can be found here, not yet covered by previous resources.

  • Make up your mind: with the information of the first three resources, where do you (dis)agree with Donald Clark?

  • Scroll down to read some more about ‘Mr. Learning Objectives’ Robert Mager.

Where to find it?

Learning trend catcher Loves to connect

Ger Driesen

Would like a direct brain-internet connection. Loves connecting people, ideas and inspiration in the global learning community.

Find me on

Ger's Learning Notes

Receive Ger's irregular dose of learning inspiration in your inbox!