Writing Learning Outcomes

Writing Assessable Learning Outcomes
Learning outcomes refer to what a student will be able to know or do at the end of a
learning unit. Learning outcomes are written for 4 areas of learning:
This refers to the content, topics, what we know of as the syllabus. You may start
these learning outcomes by saying:
Having successfully completed this unit, you will be able to demonstrate
knowledge and understanding of:….
Cognitive Skills
This is what you expect students to do with the content: describe, compare, evaluate,
apply etc. These always start with a verb that will guide how you assess – see table
with a list of verbs below.
Subject Specific Skills
Not all units will have this set of learning outcomes, and relates to manipulation skills
and professional skills that a graduate of such a programme needs. For motor skills
you may use verbs like: co-ordinates, balances, operates, handles (with
confidence/skilfully), expresses, performs, calibrates, rotates etc.
Key Skills
The University have a guided list of key skills (see QAU Handbook, section –
scroll to near bottom) which are:
 communicate orally
 work in a team
 work independently
 appropriately use ICT
 research & critically evaluate information
 apply techniques, theories in a new context
In assessing key skills you may want to add a particular group of key skills to a set of
core assignments and include in the marking. Or, you may ask students to evidence
their key skills work through, for example, Progress Files. You may have a mix of
techniques. For example assessing attitudes or group work/seminar work you could
use verbs like: supports, shares, responds, judges, joins, questions, praises, listens,
argues, responds, challenges, integrates, enjoys, volunteers, attempts, listens,
receives, decides.
Cognitive Skills for Learning Outcomes
Cognitive Domain
Selection of active verbs for
learning outcomes
Answers the questions
knowledge – ability to recall previously
learned material, know specific
facts/methods/procedures, know basic
define, label, recall, order, list, quote,
match, state, recognise, identify, recite
Who, what, when, where, how?
How do you define?
Comprehension – ability to understand the
meaning of material, interpret charts/graphs,
estimate future consequences implied in the
describe, discuss, summarise,
paraphrase, report, review,
understands, explain
How would you paraphrase?
What are the main ideas?
How would summarise?
Give examples of……
Application –ability to use learned information
in new situations/problem solving/solutions
that have ‘best answers’, demonstrate correct
usage of procedures, apply laws/theories to
practical situations.
assess, demonstrate, examine,
distinguish, establish, show, report,
implement, determine, produce, solve,
draw, interpret, provide, use, utilise,
How is xxx an example of yyy ?
How is xx related to yy?
Why is xx significant?
Analysis – ability to identify component parts
of knowledge, to understand its structure and
composition, recognise logical fallacies in
reasoning, make distinctions between facts
and inferences.
analyse, illustrate, discriminate,
differentiate, distinguish, examine,
question, infer, support, prove, test,
experiment, categorise, write
What are the parts/features of xx?
Classify acccording to …..?
How does xx compare/contrast with ?
What evidence is there for …?
Synthesis- ability to creatively apply
knowledge to new areas, integrate new
knowledge, write well argued paper/speech,
propose research design to test hypothesis.
What would you infer/predict from ..?
What ideas can you add to ?
How would you create/design …?
What might happen if you ?
What solutions would you suggest..?
Evaluation – ability to judge the value of
evidence/ material for a given purpose.
Compile, categorise, generate,
negotiate, reconstruct, reorganise,
revise, validate, organise, plan,
propose, set up, write, substitute,
initiate, express, compare, modify,
design, create, build, devise, integrate
Appraise, criticise, assess, argue,
justify, defend, interpret, support,
estimate, evaluate, critique, review,
Do you agree that…?
What do you think about..?
What is the most important…?
Prioritise & give rationale
Decision making – rationale
Criteria for assessing ….
As can be seen the cognitive complexity increases with ‘evaluation’ being a more
complex cognitive activity than ‘knowledge’.
Writing Learning Outcomes
 Select likely learning outcomes from the subject’s benchmark statement, from
your unit aims and from your professional body (if appropriate). Learning
outcomes should be written at both Programme and Unit level. You can start at
either level.
 Your learning outcomes will need to range: knowledge, key skills, cognitive skills
and subject specific skills although you may find your benchmark statement uses
slightly different headings.
 Start your learning outcome with an active verb – use verbs above as a guide.
 Check you cognitive learning outcomes span the range of cognitive skills,
ensuring that a balance of skills at the various levels of the programme.
 Map learning outcomes to teaching method/activity/assignment.
 Map learning outcomes to a type of assessment – you may find several learning
outcomes are assessed in one assignment. Ensure that the learning outcomes
can be identified in that assignment for assessment.
 The verb will help you devise the assessment strategy.
Mapping Learning Outcomes to Assessment
You may want to map your core learning outcomes with a type of assessment.
This will give you an overview of what you are doing and you may see that you
are assessing a learning outcome across several types of assessment. You could
get your core learning outcomes from your Programme Specification, but ensure
you consider how you deal with the various levels. To do this you could take
some information from units across the various levels.
Learning outcomes
(include: knowledge,
cognitive, key & subject
specific skills) – select
core learning outcomes
that appear across units
– it is not necessary to
list all learning outcomes.
You will need this
for the learningteachingassessment cycle
part – just give idea
of different
teaching& learning
used to
accommodate a
learning outcome.
Type of
Eg. essay, group
work, presentation,
extended project etc.
Unit Code