Quick start

Designing learning outcomes

Learning outcomes should be measurable, specific and demonstrable and may cover aspects of student learning involving the development of skills, knowledge and attributes. These behaviours should be assessable and observable in some way, although this does not mean that all learning outcomes will have associated formal assessments.

A well-constructed learning outcome addresses the level of cognitive challenge or behaviours required from students, the concepts to be addressed and the context in which these should both be demonstrated.

Writing learning outcome statements

A learning outcome can be constructed using a stem followed by the desirable behaviours, concepts and context.

The stem is student-focussed, and usually consists of a statement such as:

  • Upon successful completion of this course/ unit or topic, you will be able to...

The behaviours are expressed using a verb which reflects a degree of complexity.

These should be observable, based on taxonomies of learning and should consider the appropriate standards (AQF, graduate attributes, registration bodies). Behaviours must be observable to determine if students have been successful in their learning.

The concept defines the demonstrable and assessable construct, which could be skills, knowledge or attributes.

The context describes where, or in what situations, the student will demonstrate their learning, desired behaviours and grasp of concepts.

Together, the stem, behaviour, concept and context provide detail that is necessary for defining the standards of performance and will determine the potential assessment regime.

Examples

 

Course Learning Outcome 

(consistent with AQF levels)

Unit Learning Outcome 

(consistent with course outcomes)

Topic Learning Outcome

(consistent with unit outcomes)

Stem

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to...

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to....

On successful completion of this module/topic, you will be able to....

Behaviour

...synthesise and evaluate...

...evaluate...

...apply...

Concept

...different theoretical positions or arguments relevant to criminology and law...

...relevant theories on crime, risk and security...

...relevant theories on crime, risk and security...

Context

...using both primary and secondary sources

...in national and international contexts.

...to contemporary issues found in national and international contexts.

Statement

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to synthesise and evaluate different theoretical positions or arguments relevant to criminology and law using both primary and secondary sources.

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to evaluate relevant theories on crime, risk and security in national and international contexts.

On successful completion of this module/topic, you will be able to apply relevant theories on crime, risk and security to contemporary issues found in national and international contexts.

When designing learning outcomes, it is also useful to consider the standards (qualities, attributes or performance characteristics) that students will need to demonstrate in their assessment, as these will form the basis for criteria.

Learning outcomes should express the highest level or broadest outcome, and not just be a list of the fundamental tasks needed to achieve or demonstrate the outcome. Statements should represent assessable, measurable outcomes, and not just be a list of "things to do" or a list that describes content.

Quick Quality Check

  1. Are there an appropriate number of learning outcomes? (enough to provide adequate information but not confusing or unattainable)
  2. Are the learning outcomes objective, specific, observable and measurable (e.g., no verbs like “understand”)?
  3. Are the statements expressing outcomes rather than tasks or activities?
  4. For each learning outcome:
    • Is the behaviour clear and aligned with the level of study?
    • Is the concept clear and aligned with the level of study?
    • Is the context clear and aligned with the level of study?
  5. Do the learning outcomes clearly, simply and meaningfully communicate expectations to students?
  6. Are the learning outcomes for courses (considering exit awards and nested courses), units, and topics within units appropriately aligned and differentiated?
  7. Do the learning outcomes provide sufficient detail for the design of aligned assessment and learning activities?