(part of the Guidelines)
"A learning outcome sets out what a learner is expected to know, understand and be able to do as the result of a process of learning." [OFQUAL]. Learning outcomes may include technical knowledge and skills or softer, social skills.
A learning outcome, also described as an intended learning outcome or learning objective, predicts or indicates what a learner should, is expected to or needs to gain. In contrast a competence is something a learner has achieved. There is likely to be a very strong connection between an outcome and a competence.
Learning outcomes are often defined in a curriculum, qualification framework, syllabus or course description. They are often defined at specific levels and are often associated with measurable achievements.
"Learning outcomes are, in a way, a tool to describe and define a learning and assessment process and its product, which can lead to improved pedagogical practice in education and improved student learning practice. They place focus on the coherence and aims of the qualification, the judgement of the designer and how the qualification fits within the traditions of the discipline." Learning outcomes: Common framework – different approaches to evaluation learning outcomes in the Nordic countries. [ENQA15]
"The shift to learning outcomes is important for several reasons.
- It shifts focus from providers to users of education and training. By explaining what a learner is expected to know, understand or be able to do at the end of a learning process, individuals will be better able to see what is offered in a particular course and how this links with other courses and programmes. It is also an effort to increase transparency and strengthen accountability of qualifications – for the benefit of individual learners and employers.
- It introduces a common language making it easier to address the barriers between different education and training sectors and systems. If lifelong (and lifewide) learning is to become a reality, there is an urgent need to see how learning acquired in one setting can be combined with learning acquired in another. In a situation where lifetime jobs have become exceptions and where moving between work and learning has become a significant factor in most people’s lives, learning outcomes may help to reduce barriers and build bridges.
- It also provides an important tool for international cooperation, allowing us to focus on the profile and content of qualifications, rather than on the particularities of the institutions delivering them."
Cedefop, The shift to learning outcomes: Policies and practices in Europe [Cedefop]
InLOC provides a model to support the digital representation, interoperability and exchange of structures that define, and describe relationships between, learning outcomes.
Learning outcomes have also been seen as constraining and restrictive. Criticism was being voiced already around 1970 by Lawrence Stenhouse.[LS1970] To counter the criticism, it is essential that those drafting learning outcomes are bold and creative, making reasonable attempts to codify even the less tangible and less easily measurable learning outcomes.
See also the Further reading on learning outcomes.