Writing Strong Learning Outcomes

Also known as learning objectives, learning outcomes employ a simple phrase that summarises what the learner should be able to know and/or do at that level in order to gain marks. This is not to be mistaken with goals, which can also be set for students but are much more flexible, subjective and personal than learning outcomes. Learning outcomes will reflect the educational criteria that has been formally specified and used for every instance of the course given. 

It is for this reason that learning outcomes must accurately reflect the criteria that is required of students to meet a particular level. Teachers may wish to write their own learning outcomes for formative assessments and other classroom activities, and valid learning outcomes will help students to understand the course and what is required of them. 

One way to write strong learning outcomes is the use of Bloom's Taxonomy. Bloom defines six types of learning - Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. (Bloom, 1956)

Example: Miss Brown is getting her class to practice answering Psychology questions. One question is "Where might we see evidence of Stanford's prison experiment still occurring today? Does this evidence confirm the study's findings?"

She uses the learning outcome: To be able to apply psychology knowledge to new situations and evaluate the evidence.

We can see that the above learning outcome is a useful one for both the teacher and students - the students can see that they need to not only write about their knowledge to fully answer the question, but they also need to make a considered evaluation about how far this knowledge is accurate and how it might not be. The teacher can then weigh up the learning outcome against each student's answer to see how far they met the learning outcome and thus how many marks they should receive. 

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