Learning outcomes

Ident­­­­­­­ifying learning outcomes from a graduate's perspective

Learning outcomes refer to the knowledge, skills, and related competencies students will have acquired after com­­­­­­­­­­­­­pleting a course or teaching unit. By establishing clear-cut goals, we encourage students to assume greater responsibility for their own learning processes.

Well-conceived learning outcomes serve the following purposes:

  • They support teaching staff in implementing the “shift from teaching to learning prescribed by the Bologna process, by encouraging them to distill objectives from the bulk of course con­­­­tent.
  • They de­­­fine mile­stones in the learning pro­cess, there­by clar­ifying course goals, rein­forcing students' self-study efforts, and opening up al­ter­native learning path­ways.

Never­theless, learning goals may not always be easy to arti­culate – parti­cularly because most teaching staff will pro­­bably be accustomed to using course materials (such as bulleted lists of topics) as their point of de­parture, in which case out­comes may initially be difficult to extra­polate. Ideally, courses should therefore be de­signed the other way around – i.e., by star­ting out with the learning out­comes, each of which can then be fleshed out with sub­ject matter.

A well-tried method for de­fining lear­ning ob­jectives is Bloom's taxo­nomy, which involves setting up a scale of in­creasingly complex skills, and using verbs to describe tan­gible, ob­servable tasks students will be capable of per­forming. In addition to de­lineating cog­nitive learning goals (i.e., the ability to grasp, com­­prehend, and re­flect on course con­tent), this taxo­nomy can also be used to describe further com­petencies such as motor skills and physical dex­terity. Using this method, a 45-minute teaching unit can generally be crys­tallized into three to five learning out­comes.


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