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:
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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