Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are broad, learner-centered statements that describe the ultimate purpose of the learning experience—what learners will be able to do and what behaviors they may carry forward by the end of the learning experience/course. In this way, learning outcomes focus on meaning-making and learning-transfer. They communicate to the learner what is expected of them and provide them with a benchmark by which to measure their performance.

What do I want learners to know or be able to do after they have finished this lesson?
What kinds of tasks or deliver­ables will reveal that students have achieved the objectives?
What kinds of activities will prepare students to demonstrate understanding?
What teaching approaches and materials will help students achieve the objectives?

For example:

  • Upon completion of this course, you will be able to analyze and compare major psychological theories of the self.
  • Upon completion of this learning experience, you will be able to apply principles of evidence-based medicine to determine diagnoses.

Learning Objectives

Learning objectives are more distinctive and granular than learning outcomes. They are associated with a course’s specific learning activities and the performance that demonstrates their achievement. They also contribute to a scaffolded learning structure: by completing each step the learner is able to advance towards meaning-making and transfer. Multiple learning objectives may support one learning outcome.

Like learning outcomes, learning objectives are written in terms of the learner’s measure of achievement. However, they have instructor-driven purpose as they ensure all course material/topics are addressed, guide specific learning activities and assessment design decisions, and convey a coherent and scaffolded sequence to the learning experience.

For example:

  • Upon completing this lesson, you will be able to classify cells from microscopic imagery.
  • Upon completion of this week, you will be able to differentiate between proper and improper layout of a motherboard.

How many outcomes or objectives do I need?

Aim to have about 3-5 learning outcomes for a course. For each course unit (a week, a lesson, a session, a module, etc.), aim to have between 1 and, at most, 3 learning objectives. Each objective represents a specific task and single cognitive process, so any more than a few objectives in your course division may overload your learners.

What else should I know about learning outcomes & objectives?

A learning outcome (and objective) should be:

  • Specific — articulates what will be achieved.
  • Measurable — provides a benchmark by which learners and instructors assess learning.
  • Clear — clarifies the level by which to measure learner achievement.
  • Demonstrable — indicates opportunity by which learners show evidence of achievement.
  • Realistic — considers how learners will be able to achieve the outcome/objective.
  • Time-framed — involves a specific time-frame and deadline.
  • Relevant — aligns with the course’s, program’s and school’s higher-level outcomes.

Writing Learning Outcomes & Objectives Using Bloom’s Taxonomy

We use Bloom’s revised taxonomy, which focuses on the cognitive domain of learning, as a framework to construct learning outcomes and objectives. According to this framework, the learning outcome and learning objective statements must include a subject (learner), action verb (cognitive process), and object (knowledge).

Revised Bloom’s includes six categories of cognitive learning, organized by increasing complexity. For a course, each of these categories should be represented in your learning outcomes and objectives. The following table matches each of these categories with associated action verbs.

Category of Cognitive LearningExample of
Associated Action Verbs
rememberrecognize, recall, define, identify
understandexplain, classify, summarize, compare, contrast, distinguish, exemplify, interpret
applyimplement, carry out, demonstrate, generalize, illustrate, modify, use, transfer
analyzeorganize, deconstruct, integrate, differentiate
evaluatecritique, appraise, justify, recommend, standardize, test, validate
createplan, design, produce, construct, build, compose, hypothesize, invent, make, manage, perform

Here are additional Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs.