Five Guiding Questions for Creating Strong Learning Outcomes

October 27, 2021 Tayler Conklin

In a recent Watermark webinar, Kathy Telban, Chief Executive Manager for The Learning Organization, enlightened educators on shifting their approach to curriculum design. In her approach to curriculum strategy, Telban focuses on the importance of providing information to students that applies to their real-life roles after graduation. To do this, Telban believes an outcome-based model benefits students the most, with an "understanding of core essential concepts."

Why do clear learning outcomes matter?

  • They're the backbone of your curriculum strategy. Learning outcomes are an integral part of curriculum mapping. Specifically at community colleges, outcomes are required at the course level and the program level, and weak outcomes won’t cut it when it comes time to measure student accomplishment.
  • They're a prerequisite to your assessment process. Because outcomes and assessment strategies go hand in hand, creating a clear outcome is crucial to effectively measuring student success. To track outcome achievement and get a complete view of student mastery, use a combination of both direct and indirect measurements in assessment (Need a refresher on the difference between direct and indirect measurements? Download our eBook.)

Ask yourself these five guiding questions to determine whether you've created the best outcomes to ensure student success.

  1. Does my outcome start with an action? Beginning your outcome statements with verbs makes them dynamic and actionable. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a great place to start when determining which verb is best.
  2. Does my outcome match my student’s real-life role context? Envision what your learners are doing after their academic experience. Knowing exactly what their societal roles are outside of the classroom helps determine the context of your outcome.
  3. Does its scope provide enough time for learners to achieve the outcome? Be sure to think about the time and resources you have available while planning each outcome. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and your learners.
  4. Is my outcome complex enough? Determine if your outcome has enough substance to drive your decisions and content. Not enough complexity means not enough content for learners to achieve your learning goals.
  5. Has it been edited for clarity and brevity? This should be the final check for your outcomes. Avoid wordiness and ask yourself if what you have written is concise, clear, and easy for learners and stakeholders to understand.

Effective outcomes produce successful results for learners. As you develop learning outcomes for your course or program, continually ask yourself these five guiding questions.

To learn more about Telban’s process for developing strong learning outcomes and their connection to necessary content, check out the on-demand webinar.

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