Provider handbook

Appendix 4: A guide to writing learning outcomes

How to create SMART learning outcomes

      1. How to create SMART learning outcomes

Last revised: 01 Dec 2023

How to create SMART learning outcomes 

The standard practice is to write learning outcomes in the SMART format (Table A3.1).

Table A3.1. SMART learning outcomes

The learning outcomes specify exactly what GPs will be able to know or do at the end of the activity. They should use action verbs (such as identify, describe, practise, analyse).
Measurable Learning outcomes need to be measurable so that GPs know if they have achieved them. For example, if a learning outcome is ‘resuscitate a patient’ yet the activity is in a simulation centre with no real GPs, how can the ability to resuscitate a patient be assessed, other than if the GP is observed doing so in their workplace? This outcome is not measurable. It would be better written as ‘demonstrate resuscitation skills on a mannequin’. Some verbs such as ‘understand’ are difficult to measure as the intent is unclear. In this instance, a better verb is ‘describe’, which is measurable.
Achievable Learning outcomes for an activity need to be achievable in the time allocated for that activity. For example, if the outcome is to identify a structure for managing trauma, this may be achievable in a one-hour lecture. However if the learning outcome is to practise managing a simulated trauma patient, this would not be achievable within a one-hour lecture.
Relevant Learning outcomes for an activity should be directly related to the data obtained in the needs assessment in order to be relevant to GPs. The learning outcomes must address current or future knowledge, skills or behaviour gaps identified in the needs assessment.
Timely Learning outcomes should indicate the time in which they’ll be achieved (for example, by the end of the audit, discussion or course). You’ll only write this once at the top of all the learning outcomes. 

When developing learning outcomes, it’s useful to think in terms of this statement:

‘By the end of this activity, participants will be able to …’. 

Choosing the correct verb is critical and must be tied into the activities. Unless participants are to be given opportunities to discuss, describe or analyse, these verbs should not be used in the learning outcome. Ensure content and activities are aligned to the learning outcomes. For example, ‘By the end of this activity, participants will be able to [action verb] + [outcome]’ is a useful general format for writing learning outcomes.