WRITING LEARNING OUTCOMES
RELATION TO POLICY/PROCEDURES
Assessment Practices align with goals, context, learning activities and learning outcomes. [Assessment Principle 1.1]
This principle follows Biggs (2003) in regarding the goal of education being learners constructing their own knowledge, rather than being passive recipients of the knowledge created by others. Biggs considers that: ‘what the learner has to do to create knowledge is the important thing' (Biggs, 2003). It follows, therefore, that what students are asked to do within the curriculum must align with what those designing the curriculum intend them to learn.
Some starting point definitions
Aims are broad statements of the intent – for example, how a Unit of Study relates to the overall purpose of the degree and to the other Units of Study that students will be studying.
Learning Outcomes are defined in the policy as description of what the students should learn and be able to demonstrate as a result of successfully completing the course.
Once they have been identified, learning outcomes need to be complemented by teaching and learning activities and assessment tasks which align with them. Effective assessment for learning begins with how you design the whole of the unit or program in relation to the learning outcomes. Constructive alignment of context, learning activities and assessment with the learning outcomes, is required for completion of the process.
1. Questions to consider in designing a Unit of Study
Aims and Learning Outcomes: What do I want my students to learn, and how can I express my aims and learning outcomes clearly?
Teaching strategies/activities: How can I organise my teaching so that my students have the best chance of learning?
Assessment: How can I find out whether students have learnt what I hope they would learn?
Evaluation: How can I estimate the effectiveness of my unit, and use the information to enhance students’ learning?
2. Formulating the Learning Outcomes
When developing Learning Outcomes it is useful to think in terms of the following trigger questions.
- What do I want my students to be able to do?
Complete the sentence: As a result of successfully completing this unit students should be able to … (do what exactly?)
- What do I want my students to know?
Complete the sentence: As a result of successfully completing this unit students should know … (what exactly and more importantly how should they know it?)
- What do I want my students to appreciate / value?
Complete the sentence: As a result of successfully completing this unit students should adopt [what sort of stance towards the discipline, the world, themselves]… ; should appreciate /value …
3. Some things to consider:
- In stating learning outcomes, try to focus on concepts and relations between them, not just procedures and facts.
- Think about the internal coherence of your learning outcomes. How do they build on each other? Do they move from simple to complex? Is there a logic?
- How do the learning outcomes indicate the kind of learning experience students will have in the unit?
- Think about not only what you want your student to know, but the kind of learners you want them to be.
4. Checklist for learning outcomes
Are the learning outcomes:
- Specific, precise, using active verbs
- Clear, unambiguous
- Measurable, demonstrable, achievable
How will you know they have been achieved?
Student should be able to actively demonstrate what they have achieved
- Manageable in number – usually around 2-10
5. Some common traps in writing learning outcomes
i. Merely restating syllabus topics:
- ‘Exchange rates and trade’ – this states syllabus content only
- ‘To acquire knowledge about exchange rates and trade’ – this restates syllabus content by merely adding a verb
A better construction is:
- ‘To explain the meaning and function of flexible and fixed exchange rates in relation to the concept of equilibrium’
ii. Vague, general outcomes unrelated to learning context:
- ‘To become more critical of established theory’
- ‘To become an independent learner’
A better construction is:
- ‘Becoming committed to the advancement of learning within a medical community of scholars’
iii. Describing only observable behaviours:
- ‘Carry out fluorescence microscopy’
- ‘Able to produce correct responses to predictable questions in the target language
6. Communicating Learning Outcomes
Writing learning outcomes for a unit of study outline is a start, but it is equally important that they are communicated to the students, through, for example:
- Discussing the learning outcomes with students
- Illustrating them with examples
- Showing how they are assessed
- Returning to them regularly throughout the semester
- Involving students in writing learning outcomes
Click on exemplars below to see aims and related learning outcomes.
1. Classical Mechanics
This unit aims to build upon the ideas of motion, force and energy studies in grades 11 and 12. It focuses on Newton’s three laws of motion in explaining the notion of objects in linear motion and rotational motion. It aims to show how Newton’s Laws represent a revolution in the way motion was explained and understood. It lays the foundation for later studies such as relativistic mechanics (mechanics of the very fast) and quantum physics (mechanics of the very small).
By the end of this unit of study you should be able to:
- describe the motion of objects in terms of their position, velocity and acceleration
- apply Newton’s three laws of motion to explain and understand the motion of objects undergoing uniform acceleration in translation and rotation
- use Newton’s laws to solve relatively simple problems involving uniform motion in translation and rotation
- explain and understand how the two key conservation laws – conservation of momentum and conservation of energy – relate to Newton’s Laws in translation and rotation
- explain the difference between kinetic (due to motion) and potential (due to position) energy and use the law of conservation of energy and the work-energy theorem to solve less simple problems
- use the laws of conservation of energy and momentum to solve more difficult problems, involving, for example, collisions
2. Teacher Education (Teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Students)
This topic aims to assist students to teach Indigenous students in both rural and urban contexts by developing understanding of the issues in, and models of, contemporary Australian Indigenous education, to consider their own positions in relation to Indigenous peoples and to critically reflect upon the construction of education for Indigenous peoples.
By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
- Recognise the construction of 'race' as an historical and political movement
- Identify anti-racist education strategies
- Be able to demonstrate an understanding of the historiography of the Indigenous education movement
- Articulate a critical stance on issues and practices in Indigenous education
- Develop a range of strategies for teaching Indigenous students
Adapted from: http://www.flinders.edu.au/teach/t4l/cur_des/aimexamples.php#ethl
The unit has been designed to help you meet new requirements for your writing in university disciplines. Its aim is entirely practical: to increase your ability to write clear, accurate English. To achieve this aim, though, you'll need to learn some theoretical and analytic ideas about language itself, including grammatical concepts. We particularly want you to develop independent skills in editing and redrafting so that you can be confident about meeting writing requirements at university and in your professional work.
By the end of the unit, you should be able to:
- demonstrate awareness of the range of reading and writing tasks required for university studies
- structure, write and present academic essays and reports more successfully
- self-edit and redraft written work confidently
- identify basic elements of English grammar
- use grammatical knowledge reflectively in academic work
4. Work and Organisational Studies
This unit of study aims to provide students with an understanding of the ethical issues facing managers in contemporary organizations and the skills to identify and analyse the ethical implications of current organizational practices.
By the end of the unit of study students will:
- Be able to explain current interest in corporate social responsibility and business ethics
- Be able to demonstrate an understanding of major ethical frameworks, their relevance to work, management and organisations and be able to apply them to analyse problems
- Be familiar with key areas of interest to practitioners, policymakers and researchers
- Be able to articulate the ethical dilemmas facing managers in different organizational contexts
- Be able to critique major approaches to business ethics
- Be aware of, and be able to assess, current issues and trends in organisational ethics
5. Health care
The aim of this topic is to introduce students to a broad variety of contemporary ethical and legal issues emerging within the health care system, and to provide a framework for resolving problems as they apply to health service delivery.
On completion of this topic, students will be expected to be able to:
- Understand relevant ethical and legal concepts
- appreciate and articulate how these concepts and the theories that underpin them apply to the complex interrelationship between health care provider, consumer, the institution and the community
- explore the ethical and legal dimensions of their field of work within the health care system
- develop skills in ethical and legal reasoning in relation to various issues and problems at a beginning level
- articulate and express an ethical position.
- This resource, on writing learning outcomes, addresses the need to: be able to describe learning outcomes that our students can achieve and that are capable of being assessed. Learning outcomes are the specific intentions related to what students should know, understand or be able to do.