Stage 2. Purpose: objectives and outcomes

This focuses on a consideration of the aims and objectives of the learning and most importantly the expected learning outcomes for the activity that have been articulated in the plan. This presupposes a mainly outcomes driven approach in which the starting point is a consideration of what the learner is expected to: “…know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning.” (DG Education and Culture, 2009). Thus a learning outcome should be measurable (able to be assessed) and concrete.

The purpose of a learning activity/course is, therefore, to facilitate the achievement of the stated learning outcomes. It is also helpful at this stage to consider the relationship of teaching, learning and assessment as this will help to make the link between the mode of assessment used and the method of teaching best suited to the achievement of the learning outcome.

QA question: Why are you trying to do it?

Areas to consider

Quality questions

Aims and objectives

What are the overall aim(s) of the activity etc.?
What are the specific goals for this activity, i.e. what are the objectives?

Knowledge, understanding and skills (competences)

What knowledge and understanding is the student expected to acquire as a result of the learning activity etc.?
What capacities should be developed as a result of the learning activity, e.g. what subject and/or transferable skills (life or employment skills) might they acquire?
How do these relate to specific learning outcomes (see below)?

Learning outcomes

Are the intended learning outcomes clearly stated for the learner/participant and also for other relevant parties such as employers, quality assurers etc.
Do they relate to level of the learning cycle and the knowledge, understanding and/or skills to be achieved?
Are they measurable, if not are they more appropriate as general aims for the learning?

Measuring success (assessment)

How will the achievements of students be measured?
What tests, tasks and other measures can be used to assess whether a learning outcome has been achieved?
Are the proposed assessment measures compatible with the proposed teaching methods (see Stage 3) and level of learning (see Stage 1)?

Advice

  • It is helpful to formulate the learning outcomes in ways that make them explicit and comprehensible to the learners and other target users (colleagues, employers, quality assurance agencies etc.).
  • There is often a confusion between aims and objectives and learning outcomes: the former describe the focus and purpose of the learning/activity as distinct from the learning outcomes which indicate what the learner/participant should be able to do/demonstrate at the end of the learning/activity;
  • Once you have chosen assessment methods it may be helpful to check back that they correspond to the proposed learning outcomes.
  • Likewise it is recommend that you try to select your teaching methods in the light of the proposed learning outcomes and assessment tasks.
  • Some learning outcomes may be hard or impossible to effectively measure, e.g. open‐mindedness, aesthetic appreciation, tolerance, cultural sensitivity etc. so these may have to be articulated differently (not as formal learning outcomes) in the form of reports, personal statements, references etc.

Learning examples

Learning outcome

To acquire critical and interpretative competence through close reading, textual analysis and comparison

Explanation

Students specializing in a foreign language and its literature at higher education level should develop the competence to interpret, criticise and evaluate literary texts written in the target language.

This competence entails the ability, among others, to read with understanding surface and deeper meanings; to recognize genres and conventions of writing; to compare and contrast texts and parts thereof; to show awareness of related social and historical realities; to use a range of critical vocabulary, and to follow the norms of academic writing.

The Learning Outcome identified above is very wide in scope and can best be achieved through a process of focused tasks and experiences. What follows is one approach to this challenge.

Strategies for Implementation

Students are presented with two or three poetry texts preferably written in different eras but about the same topic, for example, war, or the landscape, or religion.

(The rationale for choosing more than one text is that very often features appear more clearly when compared and/or contrasted with others.
The rationale for choosing texts from different eras is that in this way there is more likelihood of differences in style and language).

Students are then encouraged to find similarities and differences in the poems. Student responses may be categorized under three headings, namely, theme, language and form. To facilitate clarity and conciseness, students may present their responses in tabular form, with responses inserted under each of the three headings.

Students then compare and discuss their completed grids or tables (using optionally ICT media), thus sharing, developing and enriching their skills and knowledge.

At a deeper level, students may look for evidence (if any) of irony, satire, allusion, parody and similar sub-surface features. They may also be able to make judgements about the author’s intention and bias (or reliability).

Modes of assessment

Two or three poems are set for analysis. This can be done in the form of a written test, an assignment or a presentation (the last two methods either individually or in groups).

Brief examples

Field: English Literature
Topic: War
Three poems are selected for critical analysis:
Anthem for Doomed Youth (Owen, 1917); The Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson, 1882); A Poem about Poems about Vietnam Stallworthy, 1968).
Although they are about the same topic, these poems provide contrasting attitudes and perspectives, a rich array of literary devices, variety of form, and use of irony and satire.

References

DG Education and Culture (2009) ECTS Users’ Guide, (2009) Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, p11 accessed at http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong‐learning‐policy/doc/ects/guide_en.pdf (10th June 2010)

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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