Learning Outcomes – A Good Idea, Yet with Problems and Lost Opportunities
pp. 159-169 | Published Online: September 2019 | DOI: 10.22521/edupij.2019.83.1
Andrew G Holmes
Learning outcomes are used throughout assessment processes in higher education. In many countries their use is mandatory, with a frequent assumption that they bring many positive benefits to educational processes. Yet, there are tensions associated with them and their current mode of use has far less flexibility than they should provide. This paper considers from a conceptual basis some of the tensions associated with the use of prescribed pre-articulated learning outcomes and the question of whether learning outcomes, as currently operationalized, provide the benefits they were meant to deliver. This is of significance to educators throughout higher education.
Keywords: Learning outcomes, assessment, adult education, teaching and learning, lifelong learning, constructivist pedagogyReferences
Adam, S. (2004). A consideration of the nature, role, application and implications for European education of employing learning outcomes at the local, national and international levels. Edinburgh, United Kingdom: Scottish Executive.
Ainley, P., & Allen, M. (2012). Hard times for education in England. Educational Futures e-Journal of the British Education Studies Association, 5(1), 15-28.
Allan, J. (1996). Learning Outcomes in Higher Education. Studies in Higher Education 21(1), 93-108.
Attard, A. (2010). Student Centred learning; an insight into theory and practice. Brussels, Belgium: European Students Union EU Lifelong Learning Programme imprint.
Bengu, S. M. E. (1997). A Programme for the Transformation of Higher Education. Education White Paper 3. Pretoria, South Africa: South Africa Department of Education.
Bloom, B. S. (1984). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals: Handbook 1: Cognitive domain (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Addison Wesley.
Bloom, B. S., Krathwohl, D. R., & Masia, B. R. (1999). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives Book 2 - Affective Domain (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Longman.
Brown, R., & Carasso, H. (2013). Everything For Sale? The Marketization of UK Higher Education. London: Routledge.
Boud, D. (2000). Sustainable Assessment: rethinking assessment for the learning society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22(2), 151-167.
Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long-term learning. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 31(4), 399-413.
Carrol, J. (2001). Writing learning outcomes: some suggestions. 2014.
Carter, R. (1985). A taxonomy of objectives for professional education. Studies in Higher Education, 10(2), 135-149.
Cohen, L., & Manion, L. (1977). A Guide to Teaching Practice. London: Routledge.
Dearing, R. (1997). Higher Education in the learning society. London: National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education (NCIHE).
Dillon, C., Reuben, C., Coats, M., & Hodgkinson, L. (2005, July). Learning outcomes and their assessment: putting open university pedagogical practices under the microscope. Paper presented at the First International Conference on Enhancing Teaching and Learning through Assessment. Hong Kong.
Ecclestone, K. (1999). Empowering or Ensnaring?: The Implications of Outcomes-based Assessment in Higher Education. Higher Education Quarterly, 53(1), 29-48.
Ecclestone, K. (2010). Transforming Formative Assessment in Lifelong Learning. Buckingham, United Kingdom: Open University Press.
Eisner, E. (1979). The Educational Imagination. New York, NY: Macmillan.
Ellis, G. (2004). Rough Guide to Learning Outcomes. Teesside, The University of Teesside - Centre for Learning and Quality Enhancement: 24.
Field, S. (2012, June). Understanding attendance and non-attendance motivation amongst first year undergraduate students. Paper presented at the SOLSTICE and CLTR conference on Enhancing Learning, Teaching and Student Success. Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom.
Forehand, M. (2010). Bloom's Taxonomy. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging Perspectives on Learning, Teaching and Technology (pp. 41-47). Zurich, Switzerland: Jacobs Foundation.
Freire, P. (1968). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin
Gibbs, G. (1995). Assessing student centred courses. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford Centre for Staff Learning and Development (OCSLD).
Heywood, J. (2000). Assessment in Higher Education Student Learning, Teaching, Programmes and Institutions. London: Kingsley.
Holford, J. (2014). The lost honour of the Social Dimension: Bologna, exports and the idea of the university. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 33(1), 7-25.
Holmes, A. G. (2018). The Role of Interest and Enjoyment in Determining Students’ Approach to Learning. Education Process International Journal, 7(2), 140-150.
Hussey, T., & Smith, P. (2002). The trouble with learning outcomes. Active Learning in Higher Education, 3(3), 220-233.
Hussey, T., & Smith, P. (2003). The Uses of Learning Outcomes. Teaching in Higher Education, 8(3), 357-368.
Hussey, T., & Smith, P. (2008). Learning Outcomes: a conceptual analysis. Teaching in Higher Education, 13(1), 107-115.
Joughin, G. (2009). Assessment, Learning and Judgement: Emerging Directions. In G. Joughin (Ed.), Assessment, Learning and Judgement in Higher Education (pp. 13-27). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
Joughin, G. (2010). The hidden curriculum revisited: a critical review of research into the influence of summative assessment on learning. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 35(3), 335-345.
Kennedy, D., Hyland, A., & Ryan, N. (2006). Writing and Using Learning Outcomes: a Practical Guide. Implementing Bologna in your institution. In E. Froment, J. Kohler, L. Purser & L. Wilson (Eds.), EUA Bologna Handbook. C 3.4-1. Planning and implementing key Bologna features. Retrieved from https://www.fibaa.org/fileadmin/uploads/content_uploads/Writing_and_Using_Learning_Outcomes_01.pdf.
Krathwohl, D. (2002). A revision of Bloom's Taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212-218.
MacDonald-Ross, M. (1973). Behavioural Objectives - a critical review. Instructional Science, 2(1), 1-52.
Mann, S. J. (2004). Guidelines for Writing Aims and Intended Learning Outcomes at the Programme and Course level. Glasgow, http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_105307_en.pdf .
Melton, R. (1996). Learning Outcomes for Higher Education: Some Key Issues. British Journal of Educational Studies, 44(4), 409-425.
Nusche, D. (2008). Assessment of Learning Outcomes in Higher Education; a comparative review of selected practices. OECD Education Working Papers No 15: 50. https://doi.org/10.1787/244257272573.
O'Neill, G., & McMahon, T. (2005). Student-Centered Learning: What does it mean for students and lecturers? In O. Holmes, T. McMahon & G. McCulloch (Eds.),. Emerging Issues in the practice of university learning and teaching (pp. 27-36). Dublin, Republic of Ireland: HEA Academy AISHE.
Otter, S. (1992). Learning Outcomes in Higher Education. A Development Project Report. London: Department for Education, Unit for the Development of Adult Continuing Education (UDACE). ERIC Number: ED354397.
Popham, J., Eisener, E., Sullivan, H., & Tyler, L. (1969). Instructional Objectives. Washington D.C.: American Educational Research Association.
Postareff, L., Virtanen, V., Katajavuori, N., & Lindblom-Ylanne, S. (2012). Academics' conceptions of assessment and their practices. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 38(3-4), 84-92.
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. (2000). Code of practice for the assurance of academic quality and standards in higher education. Assessment of students. Gloucester, United Kingdom: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. (2007). Outcomes from institutional audit. The adoption and use of learning outcomes. Gloucester, United Kingdom: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. (2011). UK Quality Code for Higher Education. Part A: Setting and maintaining threshold academic standards. Chapter A6: Assessment of intended learning outcomes. Gloucester, United Kingdom: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
Sadler, D. R. (2007). Perils in the meticulous specification of goals and assessment criteria. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 14(3), 387-392.
Torrance, H. (2007). Assessment as learning? How the use of explicit learning objectives, assessment criteria and feedback in post‐secondary education and training can come to dominate learning. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 14(3), 281-294.
Torrance, H. (2012). Formative assessment at the crossroads: conformative, deformative and transformative assessment. Oxford Review of Education, 38(3),323-342.
Tyler, R. (1949). Basic Principles of Curriculum Instruction. Chicago, IL: Chicago University.
von Glaserfield, E. (1995). A constructivist approach to teaching. In L. P. Steffe & J. Gale (Eds.), Constructivism in Education (pp. 3-16). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Wiggins, G. (1998). Educative Assessment. San Francisco, CA: Wiley.
Williams, J. (2012). Consuming Higher Education: why learning can't be bought. London: Bloomsbury.
Williams, P. (2014). Squaring the Circle: a new alternative to alternative assessment. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(5), 565-577.