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Learning outcomes

Writing expected learning outcomes

Kursutveckling.se offers useful support when formulating course learning outcomes in the form of expected learning outcomes. Here you will find, for example, the document 'Writing intended learning outcomes'. This document provides advice and suggestions about how to express the expected learning outcomes in a systematic and effective way. You may also use Kursverkstaden (an interactive tool only available in Swedish), which provides support to ensure that the course is formulated so that the expected learning outcomes, examinations and learning activities harmonise well with each other on the basis of the Constructive Alignment Model.

When formulating the course’s expected learning outcomes it is important to consider the requirements for a pass and the way in which they are examined. The expected learning outcomes are to be formulated in such a precise way that it is possible to clearly establish when a student has achieved the learning outcomes and when a student has not done so. They must show the knowledge threshold between a pass and a fail and thus express the minimum requirements for a pass. Not all learning is, or needs to be, examinable. The expected learning outcomes do not have to describe everything that the students learn on the course. Think about describing instead what you, the teacher/examiner, can vouch that all students who pass will be able to do after the course. Consequently, when formulating expected learning outcomes, you should consider potential ways of assessing goal attainment that may be used to examine the course.

For courses forming part of a degree it is of course important to also consider the expected learning outcomes in relation to the learning outcomes for the degree. The learning outcomes must then be related to the learning outcomes for the degree and to the learning outcomes for other courses forming part of the degree.

Also remember not to have too many expected learning outcomes in one course. A good rule of thumb may be to have between five and eight intended learning outcomes for courses of 7.5 to 15 higher education credits.

Substantial changes mean that a new syllabus must be established.

Examples of useful active verbs

The following link contains suggestions for active verbs along with possible proposals on qualifications to express the progression and that can be used in the formulation of the expected learning outcomes.

List of useful active verbs and useful qualifiers

Progression between courses

The knowledge and skills that students assimilate from a course often constitute the foundation for further study in subsequent courses. For courses that are interrelated in this way, it is important to formulate the expected learning outcomes with this in mind. Subsequent courses may comprise deepening or broadening the knowledge attained by students in previous courses. This progression should be clearly indicated by the expected learning outcomes for each course. It is important that the expected learning outcomes for a course have not already been examined on a previous course and that they are not formulated so that their requirements are lower than students have already achieved on a preceding course. This progression can be expressed in many different ways. Students may, for example, be expected to apply their knowledge to new areas, deepen their knowledge within a more limited area, be expected to become more independent in their way of working and their capacity to resolve new problems or be able to adopt a more critical or reflective approach within the subject or area. It may also mean that more stringent requirements are imposed on the students’ capacity to present and explain an area of knowledge to others and set it in relation to other fields or to existing research within the field.

Progression in learning goals is generally characterised by


  • increasing breadth/greater complexity (more aspects involved)
  • more emphasis on analysis and synthesis in courses at a higher level
  • increasing breadth/greater complexity (more abstract and detailed level)
  • increasing knowledge of methodological limitations and opportunities

Progression in skills objectives is generally characterised by


  • increasing independence in problem solving and execution
  • increasing requirement for professionalism when applying skills
  • increasing capacity to communicate knowledge to others

Progression in objectives relating to judgement and approach is generally characterised by

  • increasing independence in assessments
  • increasing emphasis on critical thinking
  • increasing responsibility for own learning
  • increasing responsibility in relation to the subject/subject area and/or professional or vocational area

Progression in courses and study programmes and between courses is shown most clearly in the formulation of the expected learning outcomes. This may be done in many different ways. Important aspects to emphasise are that the courses and study programmes mean that students will achieve an enhanced level of knowledge and deeper understanding. Here the choice of active verb, together with appropriate qualifiers for these verbs, is key.

Checklist

Go through the following points – have you done everything?



Learning outcomes

  • are examinable
  • are expressed in terms of active verbs
  • show minimum levels for pass grades
  • are of just the right number
  • show a progression in relation to the previous course
  • can also be understood by non-experts

Contact person for Writing a course syllabus

Olof Siverbo
Send e-mail to Olof

Page Manager: Olof Siverbo|Last update: 11/5/2018
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