Learning Outcomes set goals for learners and teachers.
John Biggs introduced the idea of constructive alignment to describe the positive effect on student learning of a consistent message from goals (learning outcomes), experience (learning activities) and assessment (measuring achievement). Biggs drew the logical conclusion that students are more likely to work consistently towards the outcomes intended if all elements of the curriculum reinforce the same goal, and students construct their own learning from the aligned combination. Similar ideas are also seen in other curriculum models such as backwards design developed by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. Outcomes-based educational design is a core idea for the course design and graduate certificate/diplomas in higher education.
Course learning outcomes specify what a graduate should know and be able to do. Course learning outcomes are informed by:
- institutional statements of graduate capabilities or attributes
- sector statements about degrees (Australian Qualifications Framework)
- discipline statements about the knowledge, skills and context (eg the Science Threshold Learning Outcomes (Science TLOs))
- professional accreditation standards (eg RACI accreditation guidelines)
Consensus learning outcomes statements are used in two ways: to drive course design and to set common standards for disciplines.
The Science TLOs also create a common understanding of objectives that underpins shared standards and calibration of standards for benchmarking.
International discipline statements are also useful and include the UK Subject Benchmark statements and publications from the European Tuning Process. Look out for authoritative discipline statements for your science and mathematical science disciplines that will help course teams benchmark against agreed standards.
John Biggs and Catherine Tang (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University, Open University Press.
Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe (2005) Understanding by Design 2nd edition, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Merrill/Prentice Hall/Pearson.