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How-To: Create Effective CPD Objectives

CPD is incredibly important to professionals, and that shows no sign of stopping even in future. 87% of millennials say that professional development is ‘very important’ to them.

So, are your CPD objectives working to make your activities as effective as possible?

CPD objectives are a critical way of measuring the success of learning activities held by your organisation, to make sure that they effectively develop and enhance the abilities of your people. Essentially, they are critical for ensuring that your CPD objectives do what they’re intended to do, so your activities don’t go to waste. If you’re the head of CPD for your organisation, the following article should help you focus your CPD budget on objectives that are more sure to work.

The first thing to remember is that CPD objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Let’s look at each of these one-by-one.


A man stands in front of a noticeboard of vague CPD goals

It is essential for you to have a specific outcome in mind for your learners. Your first priority is ensuring that your CPD objectives are not vague. An objective like “Our learners will improve their knowledge of health practices” will not be very effective. How much should their knowledge improve? What kind of techniques will they be able to use as a result of your CPD? If your trainers and learners don’t know how exactly they’re expected to develop, they won’t know how hard to work or how deep the learning needs to be.

The CISI gives some examples of which specific words to use in learning objectives and outcomes, based on what your overall CPD goal is.

If your goal is...

Your learning objective/outcome should use words like...


i.e. you want your learners to gain theory knowledge

describe/identify/list/reproduce/recall/record/recognise/draw on

e.g. "Learners should be able to list [x] techniques in [topic name]"


i.e. you want your learners to be able to apply knowledge to certain real-world situations


e.g. "Learners should be able to solve [x problem]"


i.e. you want learners to make their own analyses and critiques about knowledge and topics


e.g. "Learners should be able to calculate [specific type of calculation]"


i.e. you want learners to be able to put knowledge of different topics together to work towards new problems


e.g. "Learners should be able to plan..."


i.e. you want learners to bring their own opinions and judgements to a topic


e.g. "Learners should be able to choose which technique is more effective out of [x] and [y], depending on [z]

As you can see, the above learning outcomes show clear learning and allow you to select specific examples. The CISI states that learning outcomes that don’t do this should be avoided.


Two women in an office attempt to measure learning and development goals

You should also be able to see that the above learning outcomes are measurable and identifiable. For instance, the first example could state that if learners can list a specific number of techniques, then that CPD outcome has been achieved. A SMART objective must always be specific enough to be able to actually measure. Therefore, measurable verbs such as ‘describe’, ‘design’, ‘apply’, or ‘explain’, should be used.

You should avoid unmeasurable verbs like ‘understand’ or ‘gain awareness’. These are unmeasurable because one can say “I understand [x topic]”, but this gives no indication as to exactly how much they understand the topic or which components of it they know about.


A man speaks into a microphone at a conference

So, now you know basically how to construct a CPD objective in terms of the wording. However, in terms of the actual content, you need to ensure that these outcomes are realistic.

In a previous article, we’ve emphasised the importance of making sure that CPD programmes don’t overwork or overwhelm your learners, as almost a quarter of workers report that CPD has negatively impacted their wellbeing. This is due to increased working hours during the pandemic, for people who have been working from home.

Therefore, make sure that you’re not giving your learners too mammoth a task, so that what you need them to do is achievable.

Download PDF • 75KB

The above file from the National Association of School Psychologists states how to condense what you want your learners to achieve, so it’s more manageable. They state that 1-2 hour CPD sessions should have about 3 learning objectives. CPD activities that last 3 or more hours should have 3-5 objectives.


Now that you know how to construct a CPD objective and how many there should be, what should their contents be?

Edquals point out that CPD can help increase your members’ knowledge of the benefits and other implications of the work done by your organisation. Therefore, providing relevant CPD objectives that are linked to real-world work scenarios can improve member engagement.

These objectives should specifically be about current knowledge and skills that are relevant in the industry at the time of your CPD event being held. This is because CPD is a crucial method for keeping your members’ knowledge relevant and up-to-date, so keep in mind the following when writing your CPD objectives:

• What current trends are happening in your industry?

• What are the top trends in how your work has been carried out in the past few months?

Remember, trends are changing all the time. Ensure that your objectives are helping your members keeping up with the pace of change.

Edquals gives The Institute for Administrative Management (IAM) as an example of a membership organisation that reflects this well. This is because they have certain grades and ranks that they directly link to participation in CPD. Therefore, a good idea is to provide CPD objectives that are directly linked to certain changing roles in your industry.

Another method of keeping your objectives relevant, given by the National Association of School Psychologists, is to make them relevant to the learner, and focused on measuring their learning. An irrelevant objective would start with “In this session, the instructor will…”, while a more relevant objective would be “After this session, learners should be able to…”.


The final consideration for your CPD objective is that it should take into account how long these outcomes will take to be achieved. In other words, it should be along the lines of “By the end of this 1-week training course, learners should be able to…”

Otherwise, you won’t know whether it has been achieved in time or if later factors affected learning. Adjust your objectives so that that the pace of learning aligns with the pace of how many CPD points or hours your learners are required to have achieved within a certain amount of time, such as a year. This also depends upon their needs and schedule.

For instance, members of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) are required to achieve at least 40 CPD units every calendar year, while this minimum is half as much (20 annual CPD hours) for the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA). On the other hand, nurses and midwives registered on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register must complete 35 hours every 3 years to be eligible for revalidation.

So, what is the industry that your learners work in? Is the time-bound nature of your CPD objective realistic according to their hours and needs?


We hope that you now know, step-by-step, how to write CPD objectives that are as effective as possible for your learners. Let us know in the comments: what kind of CPD objectives, based on this SMART framework, would you use in your future CPD courses?

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