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Best Practice in Writing Learning Outcomes – Rule Number 5

Involve students in the drafting and refining of learning outcomes.

In a study at UCD, McMahon & O’Riodan (2006) found that those teachers who involved their students in the drafting and evaluation process produced better outcomes more quickly that those teachers that did not.

Students were involved in a variety of ways but two of the most effective were:

(a) students in the later stages of a programme were asked to evaluate and suggest changes to outcomes relating to parts of the course they had already completed.

(b) students were asked to comment on the learning outcomes of modules they would be likely to take in the next year of their programme.

In both cases, valuable data was gained on the way students were likely to perceive the meaning and purpose of outcomes. This tended to lead to less jargon-ridden and more user-friendly outcome statements. In contrast, where students were not involved in drafting outcomes, they were much more likely to be written in a way that students found difficult to interpret.

Other projects in UCD have used students from more advanced stages of programmes to contribute to the drafting of learning outcomes.

Printable Resources

1. Biggs, J. (2003) Teaching for Quality Learning at University (2nd Edition) Maidenhead, UK. HRE / Open University Press.

2. Rust, C, Price, M. A. & O’Donovan, B. (2003) Improving Students’ Learning by Developing their Understanding of Assessment Criteria and Processes Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 28.2, 147 – 164.

3. Spady, W. G. (1994) An Appeal to Objective Dialogue: A Response to Schlafly and LaHaye. School Administrator, 51:30–1.

4. Spady, W. G. (1988) Organising for Results: The Basis of Authentic Restructuring and Reform. Educational Leadership, 46:4–8.

5. Rees, C. E  (2004) The Problem with Outcomes-based Curricula in Medical Education: Insights from Educational Theory Medical Education, 38: 593–598.

6. Harden, R. M. (2002) Developments in Outcome-based Education Medical Teacher, 24:117–20.

7. Hussey, T & Smith, P. (2002) The Trouble with Learning Outcomes, Active Learning in Higher Education, 3:220–233.

8. Ecclestone K (1994) Democratic Values and Purposes: The Overlooked Challenge of Competence Journal of Educational Studies 20, 2.

9. Stenhouse, L. (1986) An Introduction to Curriculum Research and Development. London, Heinemann.

10. Eraut, M. (1994) Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence  London. Falmer.

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