Course Alignment

Learning outcomes are statements that describe the knowledge or skills students should acquire by the end of a particular assignment, class, course, or program, and help students understand why that knowledge and those skills will be useful to them. They focus on the context and potential applications of knowledge and skills, help students connect learning in various contexts, and help guide assessment and evaluation.

Good learning outcomes emphasize the application and integration of knowledge. Instead of focusing on coverage of material, learning outcomes articulate how students will be able to employ the material, both in the context of the class and more broadly.

Example of Learning Outcomes:
By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • identify and describe the political, religious, economic, and social uses of art in Italy during the Renaissance
  • identify a range of works of art and artists
  • analyze the role of art and of the artist in Italy at this time
  • analyze the art of the period according to objective methods
  • link different materials and types of art to the attitudes and values of the period
  • evaluate and defend their response to a range of art historical issues


The distinction between learning outcomes and learning objectives is not universally recognized, and many instructors may find that the term ‘learning outcomes’ describes what they have already understood by the term ‘learning objectives’. Some scholars make no distinction between the two terms; those who do usually suggest that learning outcomes are a subset or type of learning objective. Learning objectives, for example, may outline the material the instructor intends to cover or the disciplinary questions the class will address. By contrast, learning outcomes should focus on what the student should know and realistically be able to do by the end of an assignment, activity, class, or course. The same goals addressed by learning objectives can be equally addressed by learning outcomes, but by focusing on the application and integration of the course content from the perspective of the student, learning outcomes can more explicitly and directly address expectations for student learning.

Many instructors may find that the reflective process of developing learning outcomes is something that they have already incorporated into their course planning processes. The phrase ‘learning outcomes’ thus simply offers a more precise term for discussing the creation of learning aims and expectations that centre on application and integration of course content.


Learning outcomes are valuable to learners, instructors, and administrators. Mark Battersby (1999) of the Learning Outcomes Network explains that learning outcomes are more than simply several sentences appended to existing lesson plans or curricula; instead, the development of learning outcomes and their use within a unit of instruction shapes learning and assessment activities and can enhance student engagement and learning.

Because of their ability to benefit many groups in postsecondary education, the development of learning outcomes has become an increasing priority for instructors and institutions over the course of the last decade. Establishing a focus on integrated, generalizable, and transferable skills complements contemporary demands on graduates and builds a foundation for lifelong learning. As government and public attention on the products of higher education increases, learning outcomes help to define the goals and essential aspects of higher education within the institution, to students, and to the general public.


  • By focusing on the application of knowledge and skills learned in a course and on the integration of knowledge and skills with other areas of their lives, students are more connected to their learning and to the material of the course.
  • The emphasis on integration and generalizable skills helps students draw connections between courses and between coursework and other kinds of knowledge, enhancing student engagement.
  • Students understand the conditions and goals of their assessment.


  • The process of developing learning outcomes itself offers an opportunity for reflection on the content of the course in the context of its potential applications. Developing learning outcomes means that the context of the learning will always be emphasized, and courses focus on the knowledge and skills that will be most valuable to the student now and in the future.
  • Learning outcomes point to useful methods of assessment.
  • Learning outcomes allow instructors to set the standards by which the success of the course will be evaluated.


  • In order to determine what is essential for students to know, an instructor must consider the particular course or unit in the context of future coursework and the curriculum as a whole. This contributes to the development of a coherent curriculum within a decentralized institution while maintaining instructor autonomy, and helps to ensure that students are prepared for future work and learning.
  • The application and integration of learning emphasized by learning outcomes reflect and support the contemporary nature and priorities of the university, enhancing student engagement, uncovering opportunities for interdisciplinary, and providing guidance and support for students with many different kinds of previous academic preparation.
  • Learning outcomes provide structures from which courses and programs can be evaluated and can assist in program and curricular design, identify gaps or overlap in program offerings, and clarify instructional, programmatic, and institutional priorities.

A Brief History Of Bloom’s Taxonomy Revisions

Bloom’s Taxonomy was created by Benjamin Bloom in 1956, published as a kind of classification of learning outcomes and objectives that have, in the more than a half-century since, been used for everything from framing digital tasks and evaluating apps to writing questions and assessments.

The original sequence of cognitive skills was Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation. The framework was revised in 2001 by Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl, yielding the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. The most significant change to the Cognitive Domain was the removal of ‘Synthesis’ and the addition of ‘Creation’ as the highest-level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. And being at the highest level, the implication is that it’s the most complex or demanding cognitive skill–or at least represents a kind of pinnacle for cognitive tasks.

How Bloom’s Taxonomy Is Useful For Teachers 

Many educators love Bloom’s because, among other virtues, it gives them a way to think about their teaching—and the subsequent learning of their students.

As mentioned above, the framework can be used to create assessments, evaluate the complexity of assignments, increase the rigor of a lesson, simplify an activity to help personalize learning, design a summative assessment, plan project-based learning, frame a group discussion, and more. Because it simply provides an order for cognitive behaviors, it can be applied to almost anything. (You can see one example here–one of our teaching materials that combined Bloom’s Taxonomy with common digital tasks.)

The 6 Levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy

1. The first level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to Remember.

Example activities at the Remembering level: memorize a poem, recall state capitals, remember math formulas

2. The second level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to Understand.

Example activities at the Understanding level: organize the animal kingdom based on a given framework, illustrate the difference between a rectangle and square, summarize the plot of a simple story

3. The third level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to Apply.

Example activities at the Application level: use a formula to solve a problem, select a design to meet a purpose, reconstruct the passage of a new law through a given government/system

4. The fourth level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to Analyze.

Example activities at the Analysis level: identify the ‘parts of’ democracy, explain how the steps of the scientific process work together, identify why a machine isn’t working

5. The fifth level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is to Evaluate.

Example activities at the Evaluation level: make a judgment regarding an ethical dilemma, interpret the significance of a given law of physics, illustrate the relative value of a technological innovation in a specific setting—a tool that helps recover topsoil farming, for example.

6. The sixth and highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is to Create.

Example activities at the Creation level: design a new solution to an ‘old’ problem that honors/acknowledges the previous failures, delete the least useful arguments in a persuasive essay, write a poem based on a given theme and tone

What is a Module Objective?

A module objective specifies a specific, observable behavior, skill, or action in small, discrete pieces.  Module objectives can be viewed as the building blocks or tasks that lead students to mastery of a course objective.  

What do Good Module Objectives Look Like?

Much like course objectives, module objectives need to be specificmeasurable, and written from the learner’s perspective. You can use the same formula for writing module objectives as course objectives, just keep in mind that the focus is much smaller and more specific:

How Do Good Module Module Objectives Differ from Course Objectives?

Course objectives are much broader in scope than module level objectives. Where module objectives break down skills and knowledge into very specific, discrete skills, course objectives point more to overarching student understanding and higher level thinking skills. In a module, you may have 10 or more objectives explaining all of the steps/tasks involved in learning a concept. For a course, you will only want 3-6 course objectives.Course Objective: Utilize writing process strategies including invention, drafting, revision, & editing

1. Develop an essay idea by using brainstorming techniques 2. Identify characteristics of essays written in Standard Edited American English. 3. Format essays and writing assignments according to provided requirements 4. Demonstrate essay introductions, conclusions, transitions, thesis statements, and organization structures