Learning Outcomes Overview

Learning Outcomes are the foundation of a subject and provide a very clear picture of the purpose of the subject. They begin with an action verb and describe something observable or measurable. They are written from the students’ perspective and describe or indicate what the students can expect to achieve if they are successful in the subject. Learning Outcome Statements clearly state the knowledge, skills or attitudes that students will be able to demonstrate upon the successful completion of a subject.

Central to the establishment of learning outcomes is the determination as to how the outcomes will be assessed. The outcomes-based approach focuses on what the learners must be able to do and know at the end of the subject requiring the curriculum designer to “work backwards” from or deconstruct the required outcomes, to determine first the ways in which the outcomes may be assessed and then the learning activities and resources that will lead to mastery of the outcome.

In the assessment activities, learners demonstrate their level of achievement of the subject learning outcomes. All aspects of teaching and learning should be aligned with the subject outcomes. Teaching strategies, learning activities and resources are all designed and organized to help learners achieve the subject learning outcomes. Each learning outcome must be directly linked to at least one assessment in the subject.

The emphasis moves from content (what is taught) to outcome (what a student will be able to do, know and think).

Learning outcomes set the expectations of the subject and provide guidance for students so that they know exactly what is expected of them. When the learning outcomes and the assessments of a subject are aligned – and the teaching and learning activities and resources are all aimed at the achievement of the outcomes – the students no longer have to wonder if what you are teaching will be on the “test.” Clearly written and measurable learning outcomes can transform the way you teach and the learning experience of the students. In every aspect of your planning — in every choice of assessments, resources and activities – “How will this (lesson, resource, content, activity, assessment) help the students achieve the learning outcomes of the subject?” becomes your overarching guiding question.
Learning Outcomes match a specific domain (cognitive, affective or psychomotor) using a taxonomy of Learning such as Bloom’s Taxonomy. There should be a continuum of outcomes aimed at several levels of learning: Foundational knowledge – Application – Analysis – Problem solving – Integration.

As you write or review the learning outcomes remember that they must specify what the students will be able to do at the end of the subject – not what they will do “in” the subject, or the activities and resources you will use to teach.