Thursday, 22 March 2012 15:09

Establishing Learning Outcomes

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Teaching Teacher helping a student understand a math problem © 2012 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.


The first step in building your course is to identify the learning outcomes for your students providing them with distinct achievement goals towards which to work. Having clearly defined learning outcomes will also help you structure the content of the course more effectually.

Learning outcomes are set at the program, course, and module levels. They help us determine what we expect students to demonstrate following the completion of the course or module, rather than simply outlining what is to be taught.

Once the course outcomes are determined, you can proceed to write the module and lesson outcomes, which are more elaborate components of the course outcomes.

The verbs you choose in your outcomes will establish the complexity of the level of thinking you expect from your students. Selecting the correct verb is very important. It should describe the action the learner must apply upon completion of a task or activity, such as “critique,” “identify,” or “investigate.” As such, the verb must have a measurable quality to it so that the student’s work may be adequately evaluated. A common mistake is to employ more passive terms such as "understand" or "comprehend," which leave no way to assess the learners' performance properly.

The following chart lists a bank of verbs for the effective construction of learning outcomes, based on Blooms Taxonomy, which is organized from simple to complex levels of cognitive processes.

Knowledge

Comprehension

Application

Analysis

Synthesis

Evaluation

arrange
define
duplicate
know
label
list
match
memorize
name
order
quote
recognize
recall
repeat
reproduce
restate
retain

characterize
classify
complete
depict
describe
discuss
establish
explain
express
identify
illustrate
locate
recognize
report
relate
review
sort
translate

administer
apply
calculate
choose
compute
conduct
demonstrate
dramatize
employ
implement
interpret
operate
perform
practice
prescribe
role-play
sketch
solve

analyze
appraise
categorize
compare
contrast
critique
diagram
differentiate
discriminate
distinguish
examine
experiment
explore
inventory
investigate
question
research
test

combine
compose
consolidate
construct
create
design
formulate
hypothesize
integrate
merge
organize
plan
propose
synthesize
systematize
theorize
unite
write

argue
assess
critique
defend
envision
estimate
evaluate
examine
grade
inspect
judge
justify
rank
rate
review

Adapted from: http://www.acu.edu/academics/adamscenter/resources/coursedev/index.html


Blooms Taxonomy

Levels of Thinking

Here are examples of learning objectives that demonstrate different levels of thinking:

Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to

  1. Describe the key components of the communication process
  2. Evaluate strategies that can improve your communication effectiveness
  3. Justify why it is important to study interpersonal communication

Sequencing Outcomes

Now it is time to put it all in order. Decide how you want your course to flow by sequencing your learning outcomes in the order you want your students to achieve them. This step will help you organize and plan structured segments of learning within each module. From here, you can begin planning activities and assessment strategies based on each of the learning outcomes.

This process is discussed in further detail in the "Mapping out your Course" section of this website.

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