Writing Learning Outcomes
The very specific focus on student achievement has resulted in a widely accepted approach to writing learning outcomes.
Effective program and course learning outcomes
Effective program and course learning outcomes use the following structure:
Stem a leading statement in the future tense, highlighting that the following actions are expected to be achieved by students by the end of the period of study Active verb indicating specifically what you want students to know, consider or do Focus/Object indicating the process, product or outcome of the action such as 'theories', 'research plan' and 'principles of ethical research' Context/Condition/Qualifier (optional) indicating any conditions that may apply such as '...using the appropriate referencing system', '...as identified in...', and '...relevant to...'
Some examples of effective program learning outcomes
On successful completion of this program graduates will be able to:
- ...apply the major theories and research procedures to contemporary social problems.
- ...conduct practical or practice-based tasks in a responsible, safe and ethical manner taking proper account of risk assessment and health and safety regulations.
- ...use established ideas, concepts and techniques, drawn from the study of business/organisations, to analyse a wide range of work-related problems and issues.
Some examples of effective course learning outcomes
On successful completion of this course students will be able to:
- ...design, create and use a mechanical device which can perform a routine, specified function and that meets Australian and New Zealand standards.
- ...prepare and present a legal argument to support a defence based on available and valid evidence, with reference to contemporary common law precedents for a specified case study.
- ...review and critique a performance art work, with reference to contemporary theory of artistic criticism.
In learning outcomes statements, verbs are a critical indicator of the nature of the required student engagement. In higher education, the expectation is that students will be pursuing increasingly more complex cognitive activity and function throughout their program of study and as they progress through higher qualifications.
The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) recognises this progression across the range of awards through its specifications which need to be reflected in program and course learning outcomes and assessment.
Bloom's Taxonomy provides a list of verbs with increasing levels of complexity in cognitive activity and function. These can be used to specify the nature of student learning activity.
Verbs using Bloom's Taxonomy Knowledge recall, record, list, reproduce, arrange, memorise, define, outline, state, recognise, relate, describe, identify, show, examine, present, quote, name, duplicate, tabulate. Comprehension restate ,discuss, clarify, locate, recognise, classify, translate, explain, express, review, interpret, select, summarise, contrast, predict, associate, estimate, extend. Application demonstrate, schedule, operate, dramatise, apply, employ, use, practise, illustrate, choose, solve, write, calculate, complete, show, examine, modify, relate, classify, experiment. Analysis distinguish, differentiate, investigate, categorise, appraise, inspect, test, debate, compare, contrast, question, criticise, solve, analyse, separate, order, connect, explain, calculate, relate. Synthesis compose, assemble, organise, plan, collect, propose, construct, design, create, formulate, arrange, devise, modify, derive, develop, integrate, rearrange, substitute, invent, generalise. Evaluation judge, score, select, evaluate, choose, rate, assess, compare, estimate, value, measure, discriminate, argue, defend, support, recommend, conclude, summarise, appraise, revise.
Application of Learning Outcomes
Although learning outcomes are written primarily for enrolled and prospective students, it is important to take into account that they are used in various ways by a number of different stakeholders including accrediting and regulating bodies, employers and industry groups, and quality assurance agencies such as TEQSA.