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Writing learning outcomes or learning objectives

Taking the two models as a backdrop, how do you write learning objectives or outcomes?

Learning outcomes specify the intended endpoint of a period of engagement in specified learning activities. They are written in the future tense and should clearly indicate the nature and/or level of learning required to achieve them successfully. They should be achievable and assessible and use language that learners (and other teachers) can easily understand. They relate to explicit statements of achievement and always contain verbs. Objectives should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.

Individual outcomes should relate to one of the three domains described by Bloom (1956): 

  • cognitive (knowledge and intellectual skills)
  • psychomotor (physical skills)
  • affective (feelings and attitudes).

Outcomes and objectives should avoid ambiguity or over-complexity

The table below lists the elements of the cognitive domain with a brief description, and then some useful verbs that can be used to map the learning outcome on to the relevant level.

Bloom’s Taxonomy:
cognitive domain
Description Useful verbs for outcome-level statements
Evaluation Ability to judge X for a purpose  Judge, appraise, evaluate, compare, assess
Synthesis  Arranging and assembling elements into a whole Design, organise, formulate, propose
Analysis Breaking down components to clarify Distinguish, analyse, calculate, test, inspect
Application Using the rules and principles Apply, use, demonstrate, illustrate, practise
Comprehension Grasping the meaning but not extending it beyond the present situation Describe, explain, discuss, recognise
Knowledge Recall of information previously presented Define, list, name, recall, record


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