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Writing Learning Outcomes
This job aid is designed to help you to write learning outcomes for your courses. After using this job aid, you should be able to: define learning outcomes define the categories (domains) of learning outcomes identify the levels within these categories describe the relationship between program goals and learning outcomes discuss the preferred number of learning outcomes for a course use the checklist to write better learning outcomes.


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Write Learning Outcomes

What are learning outcomes?
Learning outcomes specify what learners’ new behaviours will be after a learning experience. They state the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that the students will gain through your course. Learning outcomes begin with an action verb and describe something observable or measurable. Examples At the end of this course you will be able to: 1. Use change theory to develop family-centred care within the context of nursing practice. 2. Design improved bias circuits using negative feedback. 3. Demonstrate the safe use of welding equipment. Learning outcomes often represent discrete units of instruction in a course but each may have several sub-outcomes. Learning outcomes need not be attained by specific instruction in a lesson—they may be woven throughout the course. For example, they may include such things as use problem solving techniques or work effectively in teams.

Why are learning outcomes important?
Learning outcomes are the most important section of your course outline—the essence of your course. They are essential because they: • • • • • define the type and depth of learning students are expected to achieve provide an objective benchmark for formative, summative, and prior learning assessment clearly communicate expectations to learners clearly communicate graduates’ skills to prospective employers* define coherent units of learning that can be further subdivided or modularized for classroom or for other delivery modes. • guide and organize the instructor and the learner. *By reading your listed learning outcomes, an employer or professional in the field should be able to identify what knowledge, skills, and attitudes your students will be able to offer them after taking your course.

How do learning outcomes fit into program goals?
Learning outcomes for a course should fit within the overall course and program goals. This chart shows how they relate.

Program aim and goals

Course goals

Learning outcomes (Competencies)

Sub-outcomes (Learning Tasks)

2 •

Instructional Job Aid

Write Learning Outcomes

How many learning outcomes should there be?
There should be as many outcomes as needed to clearly reflect what the students will gain from your course. Follow these rough guidelines when deciding how many you need: • Each major topic in the course should have one to three learning outcomes. • Each 45-hour or three-credit course should have between five and 12 learning outcomes. When you are writing the outcomes, you will use only one action verb per outcome. For example, you would use two learning outcome statements for designing and testing a circuit: 1. Design improved bias circuits using negative feedback. 2. Test bias circuits using negative feedback.

Each learning outcome may be made more explicit by using several sub-outcomes. For example: Learning Outcome 1: Study productively to meet learning goals. Sub-outcome 1.1: Identify effective generic and personal study habits. Sub-outcome 1.2: Describe self-motivation strategies. Sub-outcome 1.3: Select appropriate study techniques to match your personal style and material.

Learning Outcome 2: Manage stress constructively. Sub-outcome 2.1: Identify potential sources of stress. Sub-outcome 2.2: Predict generic and personal stress patterns. Sub-outcome...
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