Set Goals and Outcomes

When you create statements that explain your course goals, outcomes, or desired student attributes, you can then clearly express what students are expected to achieve in your course.

An outcomes-based, or learner-centered approach to teaching focuses on what students are able to know, value and demonstrate at the end of a course.

There are several benefits to adopting an outcomes-based approach to course development. It allows you to:

  • understand how your course fits within a program
  • how to prioritize content
  • recognize non-critical content
  • identify appropriate teaching strategies
  • create focused assessments
  • achieve greater clarity when communicating student expectations

The approach also benefits students in helping them:

  • choose courses
  • focus their learning
  • take more responsibility for their learning
  • gauge their progress in a course
  • prepare for assessments.

Big Ideas

The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers this resource on big ideas, the core concepts of a subject - they key, recurring ideas that allow us to make sense of seemingly isolated experiences and detailed facts. Identifying big ideas is one of the first steps in Understanding By Design (UBD), an approach to course development that uses "backward design." In this approach, big ideas are used to align learning outcomes, assessments of learning outcomes, and teaching activities that foster learning outcomes.

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements of what a learner is expected to know, value, or be able to demonstrate after completion of a learning experience. Learning outcomes may be used at the program, course, lesson or activity level.

The following two guides are intended to help instructors write learning outcomes. The Writing and Using Learning Outcomes: A Practical Guide also outlines how to link outcomes, assessment, and teaching activities for a constructively aligned curriculum.

When writing learning outcomes, it is often helpful to make use of an outcomes taxonomy to help identify levels or areas of learning, and provide structure and clarity for your statements.

For example, Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, and Biggs and Collis’ SOLO Taxonomy (see links below).

Communicating Goals and Expectations

Course syllabi are often limited to an overview of content and the evaluation scheme within a course. However, the learner-centred approach advocates for a syllabus that provides clear communication around desired learning outcomes, assessments, teaching approaches, expectations, resources and supports. Moreover, it is important to refer to this syllabus information frequently—highlighting how a lesson is connected to course outcomes, reiterating important instructions for an activity, providing reminders about assessment policies, or directing students to just-in-time supports.

This resource provides guidelines for developing a concise, yet comprehensive syllabus. Note that while it includes components required by the general regulations for Memorial University, it is recommended that you consult with your department, faculty or school for additional regulations or standard syllabi formats that they wish to use.


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