The two terms, Learning Objectives and Learning Outcomes are often conflated and lead to confusion.
Learning Objectives typically refer to activities or steps for achieving course goals as stated by the instructor. They are therefore “teacher-centric”. Well written learning objectives are measurable.
Learning Outcomes on the other hand, are written from the learner’s perspective and are therefore meaningful to students. Learning outcomes are course goals broken down into specific and contextualized skills and behaviors that are measurable. They describe what a student will be able to do, the conditions under which these activities will take place, and the accepted performance level.
For example, in a Psychology course on mental illness, one of the learning objectives could be written as follows:
- Students will be able to define schizophrenia and describe with examples, the different types of schizophrenia.
The Learning Outcome for the above learning objective can be contextualized and written thus:
- When given a case study, students will be able to identify whether it describes a case of schizophrenia, and if it does, which of the following schizophrenic reactions are involved: hybephrenic, catatonic, or paranoid.
Benefits of Developing Learning Outcomes
- Learning outcomes offer students a holistic understanding of the knowledge they are expected to gain in a course. They offer them an idea of how and under what conditions the knowledge can be used. The richer the context, the more generalizable is the learning.
- Due to its holistic nature, a single learning outcome can address more than one learning objective.
- Learning outcomes also guide instructors in developing assessments that are authentic and meaningful to the student.
- Developing learning outcomes force instructors to reflect on the potential applications of the content they are teaching.
Browse through more resources on Learning Objectives and Learning Outcomes below: