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A Practical Guide to Writing Great Learning Outcomes

Crafting effective learning outcomes is a critical step in the instructional design process, as it sets the stage for what learners will be able to achieve at the end of a learning activity. To maximize the effectiveness of your learning outcomes, there are several key guidelines to keep in mind to create learning outcomes that are not only clear and purposeful, but also provide a roadmap for students to achieve the desired level of proficiency. In this blog post, we will delve into these guidelines in detail, offering insights and examples to help you create impactful learning outcomes for your learners:







1. Focus on the learner


The outcome should be stated in terms of what the learner will be able to do, rather than what the instructor will do or what materials will be covered.


For example, a learning outcome that focuses on the learner might be:


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to identify the main causes of the American Revolution and explain how they contributed to the outbreak of the war.

This outcome is focused on the learner, because it describes a specific behavior or action that the learner will be able to perform (identifying the main causes of the American Revolution and explaining how they contributed to the outbreak of the war).


Conversely, learning outcomes that do not focus on the learner may be written in terms of what the instructor will do or what materials will be covered. For example, a learning outcome that does not focus on the learner might be:


Teach about the main causes of the American Revolution and their contribution to the outbreak of the war.

This outcome is not focused on the learner, because it does not describe a specific behavior or action that the learner will be able to perform. Instead, it describes what the instructor will do.



2. Be specific and clear


Avoid vague or ambiguous language. Instead, use specific and well-defined terms that clearly articulate what the learner will be able to do as a result of the learning activity.


A specific learning outcome is a well-defined statement that describes what a learner will be able to do as a result of a learning activity. It is specific, measurable, and aligned with the overall goals of the learning activity. For example, a specific learning outcome might be:


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to identify the main causes of the American Revolution and explain how they contributed to the outbreak of the war.

In contrast, a non-specific learning outcome is vague or ambiguous and does not provide a clear and well-defined description of what the learner will be able to do. For example, a non-specific learning outcome might be:


At the end of this lesson, students will have a better understanding of the American Revolution.

This outcome is not specific or measurable, and it is not clear what the learner will be able to do as a result of the learning activity.





3. Be measurable


The outcome should be something that can be observed and assessed. This will help to ensure that it is possible to determine whether the learner has achieved the desired level of proficiency.


A measurable learning outcome is a statement that describes what a learner will be able to do in a way that can be observed and assessed. It includes specific, observable behaviors or actions that the learner will be able to perform. For example, a measurable learning outcome might be:


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to solve quadratic equations using the quadratic formula with an accuracy of at least 80%.

This outcome is specific and measurable, because it describes a specific behavior (solving quadratic equations using the quadratic formula) and includes a clear measure of proficiency (80% accuracy).


However, a non-measurable learning outcome is a statement that does not describe a specific behavior or action that can be observed and assessed. It may be vague or abstract, and does not include a clear measure of proficiency. For example, a non-measurable learning outcome might be:


At the end of this lesson, students will understand quadratic equations.

This outcome is not specific or measurable, because it does not describe a specific behavior or action, and it does not include a clear measure of proficiency.



4. Align with Bloom's Taxonomy


Use the levels of Bloom's Taxonomy as a guide to ensure that the outcome is appropriately challenging and aligns with the overall goals of the learning activity.


Learning outcomes that align with Bloom's Taxonomy are written using the levels of the taxonomy as a guide and are appropriate for the overall goals of the learning activity. For example, if the goal of a learning activity is to help students analyze a complex concept, the learning outcome might be written using the "analyzing" level of Bloom's Taxonomy, and might look something like this:


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to break down the concept of supply and demand into its component parts and explain the relationship between them.

On the other hand, learning outcomes that do not align with Bloom's Taxonomy may be written using levels of the taxonomy that are not appropriate for the overall goals of the learning activity. For example, if the goal of a learning activity is to help students analyze a complex concept, but the learning outcome is written using the "remembering" level of Bloom's Taxonomy, it might look something like this:


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to recall the main principles of supply and demand.

This outcome is not aligned with the overall goals of the learning activity, because it is focused on remembering rather than analyzing.





5. Use action verbs


Use verbs that describe specific actions or behaviors, such as "identify," "explain," "analyze," or "create," rather than general or passive verbs like "know" or "understand."


Learning outcomes that use action verbs are written using verbs that describe specific actions or behaviors, such as "identify," "explain," "analyze," or "create." For example, a learning outcome that uses action verbs might be:


At the end of this lesson, students will be able to identify the main causes of the American Revolution and explain how they contributed to the outbreak of the war.

This outcome uses action verbs (identify and explain) to describe the specific behaviors or actions that the learner will be able to perform.


On the contrary, learning outcomes that do not use action verbs may be written using general or passive verbs, such as "know" or "understand." For example, a learning outcome that does not use action verbs might be:


At the end of this lesson, students will know the main causes of the American Revolution and their contribution to the outbreak of the war.

This outcome does not use action verbs, and instead uses a general verb (know) to describe what the learner will be able to do. But, how will we know if the outcome has been achieved if we are using a general verb?


We hope that by following these guidelines, you can write learning outcomes that are clear, measurable, and aligned with your goals for the learning activity. This will help to ensure that the learning activity is effective and that learners are able to achieve the desired level of proficiency.

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