Learning Outcomes versus Objectives
Typically in Canada, objectives are what the instructor will do or teach and outcomes are what the student will be able to do at the end of the course. In American literature the term objective is often used to indicate a student learning outcome.
At RDC, the preferred terms are program learning outcomes and course learning outcomes. Learning outcomes tie to both the Academic Plan and Strategic Plan because they are learner-centred.
Program Outcomes must align to the program’s Graduate Profile and RDC Board Ends. Course Outcomes must align to the Program Outcomes. They must also align to the learning activities that take place inside and outside of class, to the skills students will have, and to the assessments used to measure each outcome.
Writing Learning Outcomes
Outcomes add clarity to your class, and as instructor you will have greater insight into what your class is accomplishing. Outcomes are clear statements of what students will be able to do outside the classroom as a result of what they have learned in the course.
Outcomes are written using measurable verbs which indicate exactly what the student will be able to do and what learning will have occurred in your class. The students should be able to read and comprehend your outcomes and apply each one to their learning.
Outcomes are written using measurable verbs first categorized by Benjamin Bloom into three domains: Cognitive, Psychomotor, and Affective.
The following guides developed by the CTL can help you select suitable verbs for your outcomes:
- Bloom’s Taxonomy Cognitive Domain (pdf)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy Psychomotor Domain (pdf)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy Affective Domain (pdf)
These verbs will help you write Outcomes that can be assessed.
Learning outcomes can be preceded by using a standard phrase:
“By the end of this course, students will be able to:”
Further clarification of the outcome can be indicated by the phrase, “in order to.”
Here is an example:
By the end of this course, students will be able to:
—identify key figures in European history.
—use information and technology effectively in order to communicate ideas.
Learning Activities & Assessment
Learning activities help students prepare for the assessments that will measure whether or not they have attained the course outcomes. There can be overlap between learning activities and assessments.
For example, a draft essay can be a learning activity but it can also count towards the final grade as an assessment. The formative feedback given to the student in the draft essay would be used for the summative assessment of the final essay.
Learning Outcomes Checklist
Make sure each learning outcome:
- Describes what the student will DO differently as a result of this program
- Describes meaningful learning
- Is measurable/ can be assessed
- Represents high levels of thinking, rather than trivial tasks
- Is written in plain language students can understand
- Clinical capabilities of graduates of an outcomes-based integrated medical program article that compares graduates from an outcomes based curriculum to graduates from traditional content-based or process-based programs of interest.
Updated August 21, 2018
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