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The Teaching and Learning Library


Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.

Ascough, R.S. (2011). Learning (about) outcomes: How the focus on assessment can help overall course design. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 4(1/2) 44-61.

Battersby, M. (1999). So what’s a learning outcome anyway? Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED430611)

Bloom, B. S. (Ed.), Englehart, M. D., Furst, E. J., Hill, W. H., & Krathwohl, D. R. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay.

Maki, P. (2002). Developing an assessment plan to learn about student learning. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 28(1), 8-13.

Oakleaf, M. (2011). Are they learning? Are we? Learning outcomes and the academic library.The Library Quarterly, 81(1), 61-82.

Wiggins, G. P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. (2nd ed.). Alexandria, VI: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Learning Outcomes

Good teaching and successful student learning begin with the identification of learning outcomes. Learning outcomes are statements of what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate at the end of a class, a course, or a program of study. These statements form the basis for the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will be assessed and and how they will be taught.

What is the purpose of learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes are a means to clarify:

  • What is to be learned, both for the teacher and the student.

  • What will be assessed and how it will be assessed.

  • The most appropriate teaching strategies.

  • The effectiveness of teaching and learning experiences.

  • Alignment between library, course, program, and institutional goals.

  • Learning impact within the quality assurance framework.

Learning outcomes provide the foundation for designing a program, a course, or a single workshop. The theoretical framework that underpins the role of learning outcomes is the Backward Design Assessment Cycle articulated by Wiggins and McTighe (2005). This model prompts educators to design instruction starting from learning outcomes, then identifying assessment methods, and finally selecting teaching strategies. More often, teachers begin by thinking about the content they want to teach and then identifying teaching strategies for delivering the content. Outcomes force us to identify what we want student to be able to do and consequently, what we will assess.

Traditional Assessment Cycle

Backward Design Assessment Cycle (Wiggins & McTighe)

How do I move from a learning objective to a learning outcome?

The word objective is sometimes used in place of the term outcome but from an educational standpoint each describes a different perspective. An objective describes what an instructor will do while an outcome describes what a student will learn.

               Learning Objective

                                                      Learning Outcomes

Example in an IL context: 

Students will be introduced to the library website and the main research tools for their discipline

Students will explain how the library website is organized  in order to identify pathways to different types of resources.

Students will compare search results from Google Scholar and Education Research Complete in order to identify the advantages and disadvantages of each tool for finding journal articles on a specific topic.


 How do I identify important learning outcomes?


Not everything you teach requires a written learning outcome. In a single IL session, only write outcomes for 2-3 key things.To determine important outcomes, work through these steps:

  1. Review the course assignment to to determine which speciic IL attributes students need.
  2. Conduct a needs assessment of level of those needed IL skills that the students have in the course.
  3. Write outcomes for what students need to be able to do at the level they will need to learn it.
  4. Use Bloom's Taxonomy to indetify the level at which the students need to learn the IL skills.
  5. Determine how students will demonstrate learning of the needed IL outcomes either in the class or later in the completed assignment.
  6. Identify what form of instruction best enables learning of these IL skills at this level.


How do I write a learning outcome?

    • Begin the outcome with a verb. Refer to verb charts mapped against Bloom's revised Taxonomy (Anderson, 2000) such as the one below to reflect the intended level of learning from simple to more complex.

    • Use one verb in the first phrase of the learning outcome and make it observable and measureable. Avoid "understand" or "know".

    • Note that the outcome describes the assessment method. i.e. what the student will do to demonstrate learning. 

    • Align Information literacy learning outcomes with course and program outcomes.

        Bloom's Revised Taxonomy of Educational Objectives

ACRL Outcomes Formula

                        Observable Behaviour       Connecting Phrase             Reason why

Select verb at appropriate cognitive level (consult Bloom’s Taxonomy)

Select verb that indicates how learning can be assessed

Bridge between ability and rationale

Answers WHY

Describes how the student will apply the ability

Creates relevance for student


Develop a comprehensive list of words related to the key concepts in your research topic ....

in order to

Search databases with maximum flexibilityin response to null search sets and the divergent vocabulary that may be used to describe your topic.


Check that your outcomes are SMART:

SMART outcomes