Learning Outcomes

All modules and programmes should be described in terms of Learning Outcomes. These describe what a student is expected to achieve and how they are expected to demonstrate that achievement at the end of a period of study.

Learning Outcomes are described in relation to three domains of learning, i.e. cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills) and affective (attitude or self) domains. Learning Outcomes in Higher Education largely focus on the cognitive domain, but in some cases Learning Outcomes relating to the psychomotor and affective domains may also be referenced. 


Aims and Objectives

The curriculum can be described in terms of aims and objectives, which is a more teacher-centred approach. Aims are long term and general, and relate to programmes. Objectives are short term, specific and relate to modules. 

Aims and objectives are written using phrases such as: 

  • To give students an understanding of 
  • To make students familiar with
  • To ensure that students know
  • To enable students to experience

 

Writing Learning Outcomes

 

Cognitive Domain (knowing, thinking)

Bloom's taxonomy (Figure 1) is helpful when writing Learning Outcomes in the cognitive domain. Ranging from lower to higher order learning, the above table provides indicative action verbs. Learning Outcomes should range across these levels and be aligned with the National Qualifications Framework.Lightbulb with 6 sections marked on it. The top of the lightbulb says 6. Evaluation, the section below says 5. Synthesis. The next says 4. Analysis. The next says 3. Application. Then 2. Comprehension and finally 1. Knowledge.

Figure 1: Learning Outcomes in Cognitive Domain (“knowing”, “thinking”)

Affective Domain (feelings, attitudes, values)
Bloom also proposed a taxonomy for writing learning outcomes in the Affective domain.
Verbs include: Appreciate, accept, assist, attempt, challenge, combine, complete, defend, demonstrate (a belief in), discuss,  dispute, embrace, follow, hold, integrate, order, organise, join, share, judge, praise, question, relate, share, support, synthesise, value.
Psychomotor Domain (skills)
While there is no similar taxonomy for writing Learning outcomes in the Psychomotor Domain (practical skills), the following list of verbs may be helpful, but should reflect the requirements of your discipline or subject area.
Verbs include: Bend, grasp, handle, operate, manipulate, perform, reach, relax, shorten, stretch, differentiate (by touch), perform (skilfully)


Aligning Learning Outcomes and Assessments

Having written the learning outcomes for your students, always ask yourself how each learning outcome will be assessed. Then ask what learning activities the students will engage in?

The learning outcomes we write should always be linked to teaching and learning activities and to assessment so that these various elements are aligned. This is known as constructive alignment and ensures thoughtful design of the curriculum. 

Learning Outcomes are the common language in learning and teaching. ECTS credits are the common “currency” or reward that students receive for achieving the learning outcomes.


Remember!

  • Use action verbs – those provided above serve as prompts. 
  • Keep the sentence short. More than one active verb can be used in the same sentence.  
  • Try to range over the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in each year of the programme.

Centre for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL)

West Lodge, Main Campus,

Top