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Formulating Learning Outcomes - Not as difficult as it seems


Developing appropriate learning outcomes is one of the most important aspects of curriculum and course design. Without carefully crafted outcomes, a course is pretty much like a ship without a rudder – it will have no direction.


Learning outcomes are vital for two primary reasons:


- They provide focus and structure to the course

- They underpin assessment


If the instructional designer is to develop an effective course, then developing well thought out learning outcomes is a critical aspect.


So, how is it done?


Probably one of the simplest ways of formulating outcomes is to refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Bloom’s taxonomy is a learning theory that was first conceptualised by Benjamin Bloom in 1956.


This learning theory forms the framework for six cognitive levels. The six levels are:

· Knowledge

· Comprehension

· Application

· Analysis

· Synthesis

· Evaluation


Knowledge is the most basic cognitive level and involves mainly the recalling of facts, and essentially tests the memory.


Sample words for Knowledge could include: Define, recall, label and list.

A learning outcome statement for the Knowledge cognitive level could be:


“The student will be able to list the types of citrus fruits”

or

“The student will be able to label the capital cities of all South American countries.”


It is good practice to start learning outcome statements with the phrase “The students will be able to…”. This phrase places emphasis on what the student will be able to do. An outcome is essentially a completed and quantified action. To be able to quantify a completed task is essential for assessment and the recording of completed tasks.


The same approach may be applied to the Evaluation cognitive level. At this level, students are required to think critically. Keywords used in this domain include: Recommend, evaluate, recommend, disprove.


A learning outcome statement for the Evaluation cognitive level could be:


“The student will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of New Zealand and the United Kingdom in dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.”

or

“The student will be able to justify Donald Trump’s policy of withdrawing donor funds to the World Health Organisation.”


Although Bloom’s Taxonomy is one of the most useful learning theories to use in Instructional Design, other theories do exist and these will be discussed in future blogs.