Writing Learning Objectives for CME Activities: Some Quick Tips and Examples


If you are new to developing learning outcomes,  we have some quick tips and examples below. If you need any assistance or have questions please don't hesitate to reach out to Kathleen.

Learning objectives should state what the participant is expected to learn and be able to do as a result of participating in the activity, and stated in measurable terms. They should connect the identified educational need(s) to the desired outcome(s), and are supported by/developed from the content of your educational activity (your webinar presentation or course material).

Note: A learning objective is not a listing of what the “teacher” will do or provide. In CME, objectives are written in terms of what the physician will do in the practice setting with the information being taught.

An example format to introduce the statement of educational objectives is:

“At the conclusion of this activity/session/course, participants should be able to ....”

Then state what the participants should be able to do.  Follow this simple format while keeping the list of verbs by your side to ease the task of writing a good set of objectives.


CORRECT (specific, measurable)

At the conclusion of this activity, participants should be able to:

1. Define and describe the different forms of visuospatial disorders.

2. Choose proper assessment methods and identify clinical significance.

INCORRECT (too vague, not measurable)

At the conclusion of this activity, participants should be able to:

1. Understand visuospatial disorders.

2. Learn the underlying pathophysiology.

Learning should objectives contain two major parts:

  1. A noun – the content to be learned

a.  Examples: disease processes, new treatment guidelines, procedural skills

  1. A verb – the process or skill to be learned

b.  Examples: define, recite, compare and contrast, demonstrate

The verb selected should be achievable based on the educational content presented. For example, expecting a learner to list the steps necessary to perform a thoracentesis is different than expecting the learner to demonstrate a thoracentesis. The educational method(s) used will help determine the achievability of the learning objectives. For example, a one-hour didactic lecture on thoracentesis would allow a learner to list the steps necessary to perform a thoracentesis. However, a 3-hour hands-on simulation activity would be more appropriate to allow a learner to demonstrate a thoracentesis.

A list of suggested verbs for learning objectives is at the end of this article. Avoid verbs such as appreciate, believe, have faith in, be familiar with, know, learn, and understand.

A useful method for writing learning objectives follows the Kern and Thomas Approach1

This approach facilitates the construction of a measurable learning objective that contains a “noun” and a “verb”. The learning objective is created using the following framework:

Online Resources:

1) AAFP Guidelines: https://www.aafp.org/dam/AAFP/documents/cme/faculty_development/LearningObjectivesGuidelines.pdf

2) https://medicine.wright.edu/continuing-medical-education/objectives-guidelines

3) http://jeffline.jefferson.edu/jeffcme/application/intake/files/guidelines_learning_objectives.pdf

3) https://med.stanford.edu/content/dam/sm/CME/documents/Resources/effective-objectives.pdf


1Kern, D.E., Thomas, P.A. & Hughes, M.T. (Eds.). (2010) Curriculum development for medical education: a six-step approach. Johns Hopkins University Press.