Identifying Learning Outcomes and selecting Assessment Tasks

Learning outcomes

There are many benefits to communicating learning goals and outcomes. They help us keep in mind the learning that needs to be facilitated, and learners understand the learning they will need to be able to demonstrate.

Learning goals and learning outcomes are closely related yet different concepts. Learning goals are statements of the overall learning and teaching intentions. They are what the instructor would expect students to learn and retain in the course, which will still be of value even several years after the completion of the course.  For example, you probably would like your course to help your students to master the key knowledge and skills in certain areas of one discipline. Learning outcomes are derived from the learning goals and are a clarification or elaboration of the goals. They are an articulation of the expected learning (knowledge, attitudes, skills, etc.) that will take place in order for students to achieve the learning goals. They also provide the framework for assessment by stating what you expect the learners to be able to demonstrate after completing your course. A succinct learning outcome specifies:

  • The specific tasks students are expected to be able to perform.
  • The specific level of competence expected for the tasks.

At York there may be program, course and unit level outcomes. These must all align. However, you do not have to meet every program level outcome, only those appropriate to your course.

Assessment tasks

The purpose of identifying learning outcomes is to express the desired results of a learning experience. Once you have your learning outcomes, you will then need to decide how you would ask your students to evidence their learning through assessment tasks. Assessment tasks are the activities learners will undertake to confirm whether or not ‘the outcome has in fact been achieved(Biggs & Tang, 2007, p. 169) during and at the end of the learning process. We use these activities to tell how well students are learning in relation to the stated learning outcomes and to provide feedback to students.  There are many different kinds of assessment activities you can use, the most commonly used including tests, quizzes, examinations, essays, paper, presentation, reflective journals, project, portfolio, and etc. One most important determinant of the assessment tasks is the assessment has to be consistent with the learning outcomes.

Key questions for writing learning outcomes and assessment tasks:

  • What essential knowledge, skills, and attitude etc. would you expect the students to acquire?
  • How sophisticated or complex (memorization, analysis, creation, etc.) would you expect students learning to be?
  • What will students be able to do to demonstrate/articulate their level of learning?
  • How do we know that they have learned it? What information is needed to be collected to verify/demonstrate students’ learning of learning outcomes?
  • How informative are each of these assessment task to understanding the student learning process?
  • Are these clearly stated and communicated to students?


Resources for writing learning outcomes

Formulating learning outcomes is not unique to courses with eLearning components. The learning outcomes is one of the essential components of a course, whether it is delivered via face to face, web-enhanced, blended, or totally online instructions. Watch this short video introduction about how to write course level learning outcomes or view these additional resources about writing learning outcomes.

Resources for creating assessment tasks