Learning Outcomes

Descriptions of what students will learn in a course, program, or training, and how that learning will be assessed. Creating clear and measurable learning outcomes are necessary for assessment and evaluation.  Well-stated learning outcomes include a verb to describe an observable action, a description of what the learner will be able to do and under which conditions, and the performance level the learner should be able to reach. Learning outcomes is a general term for what students will learn and how that learning will be assessed, and includes goals and objectives. Related terms include:

  • Learning goals – often used to describe the general outcomes for a course or program.
  • Learning objectives  – refer to the more focused outcomes for specific learning lessons or activities.
  • Learning taxonomies – describe how a learner’s understanding develops from simple to complex when learning different subjects or tasks.

Two taxonomies are commonly used in developing learning outcomes:

  • Bloom’s Taxonomy – model describing how learning occurs hierarchically, as each skill builds on previous skills towards increasingly sophisticated learning. It includes three domains of learning: cognitive, psychomotor, and affective.
  • Finks Taxonomy of Significant Learning – model describing learning as holistic and extending beyond the course or training.  The right-hand side of the taxonomy refers to the same kinds of cognitive learning described in Bloom taxonomy but the left-hand side goes beyond cognitive learning to include six intersecting domains (foundational knowledge, application  skills, integration, human dimension, caring, and learning how to learn.Comparison of Fink and Bloom taxonomies showing that Bloom's taxonomy is represented in half of Fink's taxonomy. And fink also includes caring, human dimension and learning to learn