Creating Learning Outcomes

On this page you’ll find information on: 

 

What is a learning outcome?

Learning outcomes are statements that describe the knowledge and/or skills students should acquire by the end of a particular assignment, class, course, or program, and help students understand why the knowledge and skills will be useful to them. Very often both terms ‘learning outcome’ and ‘learning objective’ are used to describe the knowledge and skills that will be learned. 

Learning outcomes focus on the context and potential applications of knowledge and skills, help students connect learning in various contexts, and help guide assessment and evaluation. 

Where do course and program learning outcomes come from?

To ensure consistent knowledge and skills are learned by students across Ontario, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has released standards which contain required learning outcomes for many programs. These outcomes are set at the program-level. For programs with a Ministry standard, there is flexibility in how course-level objectives are written. For programs that do not have a Ministry program standard, the College has full flexibility in how the learning outcomes are written at the program and course-levels.  

What are learning outcomes used for?

Primarily, learning outcomes are used to direct which learning content, activities, and assessments are added to a course to facilitate and assess learning, but are used in other areas across the College, not just in teaching and assessment. For example, learning outcomes are listed on the approved course outline for a course. Course outlines can be used by students to get credit recognition and advanced standing if they apply for programs at other post-secondary institutions. Our Educational Pathways department relies on correct learning outcomes and course outlines to assist students to use their Fleming education as credit towards further study. 

How to write effective learning outcomes

At both the course and program level, student learning outcomes should be clear, observable and measurable, and reflect what will be included in the course or program requirements (assignments, exams, projects, etc.). 

Bloom’s taxonomy is used to classify learning outcomes into levels of complexity. The taxonomy provides verbs that reflect learning knowledge, attitudes, and physical skills. The list of knowledge levels and their associated verbs is frequently used to structure curriculum learning outcomes, assessments and activities. 

Bloom's Taxonomy list

(Accessible version and source: https://mygrowthmindsethome.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/blooms-taxonomy.pdf)

Steps for Writing Learning Outcomes:

The following are recommended steps for writing clear, observable and measurable student learning outcomes. In general, use student-focused language, begin with action verbs and ensure that the learning outcomes demonstrate actionable attributes. 

1. Begin with an action verb

    • Start with an action verb that denotes the level of learning expected. For example: Apply important chemical concepts and principles to draw conclusions about chemical reactions.” 
    • Terms such as know, understand, learn, appreciate are generally not specific enough to be measurable.  
      • Reference Bloom’s Taxonomy to choose a verb that accurately reflects the level of learning. 

 2. Follow with a statement

    • The statement should describe the knowledge and abilities to be demonstrated. For example: ……..important chemical concepts and principles to draw conclusions about chemical reactions. 
    • Examples of Learning Outcomes: Students will… 
      • identify, formulate and solve integrative chemistry problems. (Chemistry) 
      • build probability models to quantify risks of an insurance system and use data to make statistical inferences. (Actuarial Science) 
      • use basic vector, raster, 3D design, video and web technologies in the creation of works of art. (Art) 
      • apply differential calculus to model rates of change in time of physical and biological phenomena. (Math) 
      • identify characteristics of certain structures of the body and explain how structure governs function. (Human Anatomy lab) 
      • calculate the magnitude and direction of magnetic fields created by moving electric charges. (Physics) 

3. Review outcome

 

Who can change learning outcomes and when?

Learning outcomes that come from Ministry program standards are reviewed periodically by the Ministry, which may result in changes to learning outcomes. Otherwise, the learning outcomes that the Ministry has listed in a program standard cannot be changed. For College created course-level or program-level learning outcomes, once approved by the Chair, these cannot be changed without following the program review and improvement planning process, which is scheduled regularly by the Academic Quality department. The review schedule can be found here and you will be guided by your Chair and Coordinator as to when review activity begins for your program. 

How to ensure all learning content and activities align with a course/program learning outcomes

Assessments should indicate how well students have learned, while instruction delivers the learning. For this to occur, assessments, learning outcomes, and instructional strategies need to reinforce each other. To ensure the assessments and strategies in your course support the learning outcomes, ask yourself the following questions: 

Learning outcomes: What do I want students to know how to do when they leave this course? Assessments: What kinds of tasks will reveal whether students have achieved the learning outcomes I have identified? Instructional strategies: What kinds of activities in and out of class will reinforce the learning outcomes and prepare students for assessments?

More information on how to build assessments and curriculum which support learning outcomes can be found on their respective pages. 

Resources