Writing Meaningful and Measurable Learning Outcomes

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Published: Friday, June 18, 2021
Summary:

Writing meaningful and measurable learning outcomes can be difficult at first, but it will get easier with practice! Read on to find out how.

Learning objectives and outcomes are the foundation you lay for your course: with this solid foundation you can determine the rest of the structure, content, and needs. First, learning objectives and outcomes help you to focus on what is important to your course: what you're teaching, what you're asking learners to do, and what you need to provide to make sure that learners are getting what they need. Second, learning outcomes help learners understand what is required of them: what they will need to be able to know, do, and demonstrate by the end of the week, module, and course.

When outcomes are meaningful, they describe the learning in specific and concrete terms that tell learners what they will be learning and doing. When outcomes are measurable, you can observe the learning through assessments and activities that are likely to occur within the time frame of the course. When outcomes are written in a way that is not meaningful and measurable, it is difficult for learners to really understand what you asked them to do. This also makes it difficult to ensure that your course is delivering what you want it to.

Writing meaningful and measurable learning outcomes can be difficult at first, but it will get easier with practice. To help you get started with writing the learning outcomes for each module in your course, follow along with the steps below.

Step 1: Focus

Think about why you have provided the information you did in each module. Why do learners need this information and what are they supposed to do with it? Alternatively, you could jot down which questions drive the module, what questions learners might ask about this module, or what they need to answer/explain by the end of it. This approach also drives towards the heart of the learning outcome.

Step 2: Measure

Once you have some ideas from Step 1, think about how your learners will demonstrate mastery of this information. Use Bloom's Taxonomy in this step to determine which verb accurately reflects what you are asking the learner to do. Learning outcomes should always be measurable, meaning that they describe the learning in specific and concrete terms that tell learners what they will be doing with the information.

Step 3: Calibrate

Calibrate outcomes to the level of expertise. This is also where the categories in Bloom’s Taxonomy come in handy. Based on the level of expertise, outcomes and their associated verbs will vary.

Step 4: Simplify

Simplify overly-complicated outcomes. Avoid writing learning outcomes that are too complex. Generally speaking, sticking to one action per outcome is the most straightforward way to communicate expectations to your learners.

Step 5: Repeat

Writing outcomes is not a one-and-done process. You can return to and edit your outcomes as needed. When thinking about how many outcomes to include, be aware to provide your learners with a robust indicator of what is going on during the module and what the learning expectations are, but also avoid having too much going on in one module. These tools can help you get started: ASU Objectives Builder Tool and UCF Objectives Builder Tool

You can also learn more about writing learning outcomes in our open-enrollment OER, An Interactive Guide to Online Course Design.

Authored By:

Laura McAllister Smith

Laura Smith
Senior Instructional Designer