L is for Learning Outcomes

This is the final extract from this week’s featured Book of the Week  The A-Z Guide of Working in Further Education by Jonathan Gravells and Susan Wallace. We hope you have enjoyed these tasters.

Trainee teacher Madge bumps into her mentor, Zoe.

ZOE: Madge! Hi! Thanks for writing up your bit of the scheme of work. Could I just have a quick chat to you about how we set out learning objectives?

MADGE: Oh no! I’ve done something wrong, haven’t I?

ZOE: Don’t get into a flap. I just want to explain something. Sit down. Now, look. When we write learning outcomes we have to make sure that they are observable – that they’re expressed in terms of what the learners should be able to do by the end of the lesson. OK?


ZOE: Now, why do you think we have to word them in that way?

MADGE: Erm. Because then we know what we have to assess to see whether the learner’s achieved the outcome?

ZOE: Absolutely! Good. So now can you tell me what the problem is with this outcome as you’ve written it on your lesson plan: ‘To understand the booking procedure.’ What’s the problem with that, from the point of view of assessment?

MADGE: Erm. No. I don’t know.

ZOE: Ok. How will you be able to assess whether the learner understands the procedure?

MADGE: Oh! I see! I won’t, will I? I can’t really assess whether they understand something unless I get them to explain it to me. So what I should have written was: ‘To explain the booking procedure.’

ZOE: Yes. But better still: ‘To explain the booking procedure correctly .’ And it helps if you remember that all lesson learning outcomes should have the prefix: ‘By the end of the lesson the learner will be able to…’.

Learning outcomes, learning objectives, competence statements: they should all be written in terms of what the learner should be able to do by the end of that learning process. The outcomes drive the lesson plan. They dictate the types of learner activity required in order to achieve those outcomes and demonstrate them so that they can be assessed. As Zoe points out, words such as ‘understand’ or ‘know’ or ‘learn’ aren’t useful for this purpose. They don’t describe observable, asssessable activities, and so they create a lack of clarity about how and at what points in the lesson the outcomes will be assessed. Descriptors such as ‘correctly’ or ‘accurately’ are also important for standards of assessment.

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One thought on “L is for Learning Outcomes

  1. Pingback: Are Detailed Objectives Really Necessary in Lesson Plans? | Clare's ELT Compendium

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