Align with taxonomies
When writing learning outcomes, you need to describe the desirable performances or behaviours that you will observe to determine if a student has been successful in their learning. These performances are described by verbs which are often selected based on Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised) or the SOLO Taxonomy. (There are other frameworks such as Marzano or Dreyfus that may prove useful for conceptualising thinking skills and mastery in learning).
When selecting verbs for learning outcomes, consider if they are measurable, demonstrable and assessable. Consider also if they align with the level of qualification in which a program of learning is situated. For example, low-level cognitive skills such as ‘understanding’ are not easily assessed and they may not be as appropriate for a higher level AQF qualification compared to higher level performances required from learners such as ‘analysing’ or ‘evaluating’.
Bloom's Taxonomies of learning (revised)
‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ is a framework for educational objectives that is commonly known and used across educational sectors. This taxonomy (revised by Anderson & Krathwohl in 2001) provides a useful way to identify the verbs that can be used to design learning outcomes. Another way to look at this is by identifying the desired performance or behaviour and reviewing aligned verbs that fall within the performance.
The Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO) taxonomy is a framework devised by John Biggs and Kevin Collis (1982) to support educators to design learning outcomes, activities and assessment rubrics in order to effectively achieve particular levels of learning.
SOLO is a research/evidence-based theory about teaching and learning, unlike Bloom's taxonomy, which is a theory about knowledge. SOLO can be used by both students and educators to evaluate the quality and complexity of learning, and to build towards more complex levels of learning. SOLO allows the learning task and the evaluation to be at different levels, which enables diagnostic, formative or summative assessment of different levels of accomplishment. This is useful in the development of rubrics for assessment tasks.
The levels of learning in the SOLO taxonomy
|Extended abstract |
The SOLO taxonomy begins with a Prestructural level during which no new learning occurs. |
While a learning level like this may be impractical when developing learning outcomes, it's a useful starting level for assessing learning and designing rubrics.
|The learning experience focuses on one relevant aspect.||The learning experience focuses on several relevant aspects, but each is thought of independently.||The learning experience integrates several relevant aspects into a coherent structure.||After integrating several relevant aspects into a coherent structure, the learner thinks about applying what they have learned to a new or different context.|
|Associated verbs include:|