page is designed to help you write appropriate learning
outcomes when developing and revising your modules and
programmes, and when devising assessment tasks.
number of sources have been used to create this document.
These are stated below should you want to read
around the subject further.
If you are new to this process, you may also find
the information in the Appendix
appendix provides the following information:
glossary of key terms
of learning outcomes
practice in writing learning outcomes
in writing assessment criteria
students using criteria
terms are explained in the Glossary section of the
plan over time to expand this document so that it includes
real examples of good learning outcomes from existing UCE
course documentation from a wide range of disciplines at
various levels. Click here
2. What are Learning
outcomes are the specific intentions of a programme or module,
written in specific terms. They
describe what a student should know, understand, or be able to
do at the end of that programme or module.
Learning outcomes are written bearing in mind the UCE
level descriptors for that level or award.
3. The Learning Outcomes
Click on the graphic below to
link to relevant sections of this Guide.
are the benefits of Learning Outcomes
your courses using learning outcomes leads to a more student-centred
approach: it marks a shift from the content of a module or
course (namely, what staff members teach) towards its outcome
(in other words, what the student is able to do on successful
completion of the course or module).
to guide students in their learning in that they explain
what is expected of them, in turn helping them to succeed
in their studies.
staff to focus on exactly what they want students to
achieve in terms of both knowledge and skills.
a useful guide to inform potential candidates and
employers about the general knowledge and understanding
that a graduate will possess.
clear learning outcomes will also be useful when compiling
information for student Progress Files, which will soon be
required of all universities.
5. The Learning
Outcomes process at programmes level
designing a new programme, the QAA requires you to produce a programme
specification, for which you use the University template.
This specification includes the aims of the programme
and the learning outcomes for the programme.
It is essential that these programme outcomes refer to
the outcomes of the entire programme leading to the
relevant award, and when writing them, you must take UCE’s level
descriptors, the QAA’s subject
benchmark statements and, where applicable, Professional
Body requirements into consideration.
You are required to categorize your programme outcomes
in terms of:
knowledge and understanding
For an explanation of these four
categories, look in the Appendix under
you have devised your programme outcomes, you need to make
sure that their attainment is clearly achievable through the
module outcomes on the programme.
If your programme covers more than one level (such as a
Bachelor’s degree) you may find it useful to break down the
aims of the programme over the levels so that you can verify
that students are progressively working towards the programme
outcomes throughout the course.
you have any longer-term outcomes on a programme and feel a
student may only be able to demonstrate them on completion of
the programme, state them as programme outcomes, rather than
6. The Learning
Outcomes process at module level
well-structured module should show clear alignment between the
learning outcomes and the assessment
criteria used on the module; in turn this requires you to
design appropriate assessment tasks, and to deliver the module
in a way which enables students to reach the required
alignment between learning outcome, learning and teaching
method, assessment tasks and assessment criteria makes the
whole process transparent to the students and to other
interested parties, and helps you to ensure that there is
your modules. Use
the chart below as a guide in this process.
Click on the chart to link to
relevant sections of this Guide.
the outcomes of each module have to correspond with UCE’s
descriptors for that level, you don’t have to attain ALL the
descriptors in every module.
Instead, you should make sure that students attain all
descriptors on successful completion of ALL CORE MODULES at each level of a
7. Writing Learning
learning outcomes should specify the minimum acceptable
standard for a student to be able to pass a module or course
(threshold level). This
means that it is important to express learning outcomes in
terms of the essential learning for a module or course,
so you should have a small number of learning outcomes which
are of central importance, not a large number of superficial
recommend that you aim for between four and eight learning
outcomes for each of your modules, and up to twenty-five
outcomes for an entire programme.
programme outcomes with the phrase:
successful learner from this programme will be able to …’
module outcomes with the phrase:
successful completion of the module, students will be able to
successful completion of the module, you will be able to
OR, better still:
phrases lead you to use action verbs so that students
are able to demonstrate that they have learned or
achieved the outcome. Verbs
relating to knowledge outcomes – ‘know’,
‘understand’, ‘appreciate’ – tend to be rather
vague, or to focus on the process students have gone through
(e.g. ‘undertake action research’) rather than the final
outcome of that process (e.g. ‘formulate strategies
appropriate to their topic’), so use action verbs –
‘solve’, ‘evaluate’, ‘analyse’ – to indicate how
students can demonstrate acquisition of that knowledge.
sure you only use one verb per learning outcome, and that you
keep the sentence structure simple to avoid misinterpretation.
Avoid unnecessary jargon; if absolutely necessary, use
more than one sentence to ensure clarity.
help you write your outcomes, use Bloom’s
Taxonomy (1956), which despite its age is still one of
the best aids to writing good learning outcomes.
Bloom identified six categories of learning –
knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and
which you can use at
any academic level.
The first two of these relate specifically to knowledge
and understanding, while the remaining four involve
While it might seem tempting to concentrate on the
lower two categories for lower level modules, we recommend
that you do engage your students in higher level
activities, albeit on a smaller, more focused scale, from the
writing your outcomes, bear in mind the specific UCE Level
Descriptors relevant to that level of study: use of Bloom’s
taxonomy will help you to respond to the first section of the
Level Descriptors, which relate to knowledge and
intellectual (thinking) skills.
For learning outcomes which relate to specific
skills (as seen in the second part of the Level
Descriptors), then you need to phrase your wording to describe
how each skill is performed (for example, ‘will be
able to communicate effectively and succinctly through oral
8. Linking Outcomes
already stated, you need to ensure that assessment tasks are
designed to fulfil the outcomes of a module.
One way of ensuring this is by directly linking your
assessment criteria to your learning outcomes: this may
involve a simple one-to-one correlation between outcome and
criterion, or you may wish to have more than one criterion for
each outcome. This
method makes the assessment process all the more transparent
to students, and enables them to see the purpose of
assessments more easily. Making regular reference to the
out-comes of the module will also help reinforce this
It is often helpful to combine intellectual outcomes and
skills-based outcomes when devising assessments. For instance, if your outcomes state that students will be
contrasting strategies for dealing with organizational
that they are effective team workers, and
on the role they play in groupwork,
can then conflate these through one assessment, such as a
group presentation with supporting
group documentation including individual statements about
the role each individual played in the final piece of work.
Three outcomes can therefore be attained through one
assessment, and you will need distinct assessment criteria to
account for each of the stated outcomes.