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Outcomes & Objectives

What are learning outcomes and objectives?

A learning outcome is a more general statement of what students are expected to learn and can be thought of as a general goal.

A learning objective is a more specific statement of what students are expected to learn and often includes performance criteria.

Learning outcomes and objectives are important in communicating the purpose of instruction and the expectations of students.

Where do you start when writing a learning outcome or objective?

Begin with the end in mind!

When writing learning outcomes (general goals for the course), consider what you want students to be able to do from a “big picture” perspective.

When writing learning objectives (such as weekly learning objectives), consider what “smaller picture” tasks students will need to be able to complete in order to build up to the “big picture” learning outcomes.

For example:

  • Learning outcome: Students will recognize and articulate oppression and diversity theories.
  • Learning objective: Students will define and describe expectancy theory.

Use the varying levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain. In other words, some learning objectives should be more basic or foundational and build students’ content knowledge, whereas other learning objectives should be more advanced to allow students to demonstrate higher order thinking, such as problem-solving skills. There should be a range of “levels” in regard to abilities throughout.


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Adapted from Schoenfeldt & Salsbury, 2009, p. 52