TLTC
Teaching and Learning With Technology Center

 
of the
Center for Teaching and Learning
Georgia State University
ITC
Instructional Technology Center
Library
GSU libraries
UETS
University Educational Technology Services
GSU Senate:
IS&T: Information Systems & Technology Committee
TLTS
IS&T Teaching and Learning with Technology Subcommittee
 
October 4, 2005
Developing learning outcomes and assessing them
Learning outcomes and their assessment: Process steps
1 Identify learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements of what students will be able to do after they complete a course. Learning outcomes that are assessable make clear the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that students will develop in the course. Compare the following kinds of language for representing learning outcomes:

 

Ill-defined statements:

  1. Understand...
  2. Appreciate...
  3. Describe...
  4. Discuss...
  5. Explain...
  6. Compare and contrast...
  7. Increase awareness of...
  8. Define...
  9. Enhance knowledge of...

Well-defined statements:

  1. Analyze...
  2. Design (or redesign)...
  3. Develop...
  4. Implement...
  5. Evaluate...
  6. Identify...
  7. Communicate...
  8. Create...
  9. Prepare...

The verbs on the left usually lead to ill-defined statements because it is hard to assess whether someone "understands" or "appreciates". Although it may be possible to assess when someone has adequately "described...", "discussed", or "explained", these performances may simply be a function of learners reproducing material they have memorized.

The verbs on the right are more likely to lead to well-defined statements when they indicate the product to be "analyzed...", "designed...", etc. These deliverables can be scored, often with rubrics, in ways that indicate how well the learner has "analyzed...", "designed...", etc.

To illustrate this contrast, consider the following transformation of learning outcomes for a course.

For more help on developing learning outcomes, see the Instructional Objective Writing Assistant.

2 Create a sequence of learning outcomes Put the learning outcomes in an expertise-building sequence in the sense that later learning outcomes require or build on the earlier ones in essential ways.
3 Design learning experiences and assessments

Design learning experiences for learner performance of the capabilities represented by the learning outcomes. When learning experiences are authentic in the sense that they simulate tasks that graduates in the field would perform, it is often possible to publish the learning experience in the discipline's education literature as a case or problem. When they simulate authentic performance in the discipline, learning experiences can be used for assessment purposes. That is, learners can work through a learning experience to learn or they can complete a learning experience as an assessment of their competence in performing the task.

4 Facilitate learners

Facilitate learners working through the learning experiences, i.e., teach with the new learning experiences.

5 Analyze learning outcomes

Analyze learner competence for each learning outcomes by:

  1. Comparing learner performance to performance of earlier learners, with the same learning experiences and with learning experiences motivated by different learning theories
  2. Looking for clues for how to improve the learning experiences, including matching them more thoroughly to the authentic performances that graduates are expected to complete
  3. Reconfiguring the learning experiences to prompt greater learning

When learners are developing the skills valued in graduates working in the field, it may be possible to publish learning experiments in the discipline's research literature as instances of expertise development. Experiments not meeting the standards of a discipline's research literature may be publishable in the discipline's education literature.

For an article-length treatment of this process, see Borthick, A. F., D. R. Jones, and S. Wakai. 2003. Designing learning experiences within learners' zones of proximal development (ZPDs): Enabling collaborative learning on-site and online. Journal of Information Systems 17(1): 107-134. PDF file
Copyright © 2005 Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLTC), Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. All rights reserved.