What are “Learning Outcomes”?
Learning outcomes refer to the anticipated results of a course of study — the skills, behaviors, or knowledge that a student is expected to possess. Setting out desired learning outcomes prior to the start of a course makes it possible to measure the effectiveness of course content, teaching strategies, and other pedagogical components at the end of a given course. This ensures that students are engaging in productive learning experiences that build on past knowledge and skills while also providing the foundation for future learning.
According to MIT’s Teaching and Learning Laboratory, intended learning outcomes “aren’t simply a list of the topics to be covered in the course.” Instead, they speak specifically to the new knowledge and skills a student should possess after taking the course. Ideally, “good intended learning outcomes shouldn’t be too abstract (‘the student will understand what good literature is’); too narrow (‘the students will know what a ground is’); or be restricted to lower-level cognitive skills (‘the students will be able to name the countries in Africa.’)”
The University of Virginia’s Office of Institutional Assessment and Studies identifies three types of learning outcomes: knowledge outcomes, skills outcomes, and attitude outcomes.
Knowledge outcomes (also referred to as cognitive outcomes) concern the degree to which students understand specific course content. In a beginning algebra course, for example, an intended knowledge outcome might be understanding how to solve linear equations.
Skills outcomes (also referred to as psychomotor outcomes) “describe the techniques and approaches required for work” in a given area. These outcomes might be applicable across disciplines. For example, an intended skills outcome might involve knowing how to communicate complex, research-based ideas in writing.
Attitude outcomes (also referred to as “values” or affective outcomes) may concern students’ behavior or approach. An example of an attitude outcome might be, “students demonstrate open-mindedness and awareness when studying different cultures.”
Here at Knewton, we love geeking out over edtech – the people, the technology, and its potential to change the world. As part of our participation in the community, we’re putting together an “Ed Tech 101” glossary to explore the language itself – the buzzwords, the jargon, the neologisms, and everything in between. Have an ed tech word or phrase you’d like us to feature? Leave a comment!
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