Intended Learning Outcomes on course level

The course level: What are students after 8-weeks Course x able to do?

On a course/module level the Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are very specific for that course and usually you would find that each ILO is directly related to one or more specific examinations and is explicitly taken into account in order to get credits (e.g. the grading of a course).

Formulating ILOs

Biggs and Tang (2007) describe course ILOs as “statements, written from the students’ perspective, indicating the level of understanding and performance they are expected to achieve as a result of engaging in the teaching and learning experience”. On a course level, an ILO is well-formulated when a student who reads the ILO knows what to do and how well to do it in order to achieve the ILO.

Biggs et al. (2007) specifically chose the term ‘ILO’ instead of ‘objective’ since ILO puts more emphasis on the student’s perspective, on what the student has to learn (vs what the teacher has to teach).

To derive course ILOs, they distinguish three choices that need to be clarified based on the aim of the course:

  1. The type of knowledge;
  2. The topics that will be taught/learned;
  3. The level of understanding or performance (and how this achievement is displayed) of each chosen topic.

The intended type of knowledge and the level of understanding/performance can be expressed in an outcome verb. Verbs can be chosen from e.g. the SOLO taxonomy or Bloom’s revised taxonomy (e.g. as portrayed by CELT). Based on these three choices, the course ILOs can be written. These ILOs are the starting point for developing the teaching, learning methods and assessment of a course. Biggs & Tang (2007) advise to derive no more than five or six ILOs per course.

”The more ILOs, the more difficult it becomes to align teaching/learning activities and assessment tasks to each”.

ILOs for Employability

Employability

ILOs should be relevant to the employability competencies:

  • Academic expertise and skills
  • Self-awareness: being aware of strengths and weaknesses
  • Adaptability: transferring knowledge from previous courses and/or to the workplace
  • Social responsibility: functioning well in teams

ILOs for International/Intercultural learning

International/Intercultural learning

Under construction

 

 

Original ILOs:

  • This course will provide students with knowledge on the most important scientific theories and empirical findings on topic X, topic Y, and topic Z.
  • They will learn why and how topic X impacts what will happen to us in our life.
  • They will also discuss practical applications of theory and research findings and learn to apply measurement techniques for assessing topic Y.

Required adjustments:

  • The ILOs are formulated from a teacher perspective instead of student perspective (e.g. ‘This course will provide…’, ‘They will learn…’).
  • For some topics, the level of understanding/performance is mentioned (e.g. ‘… apply measurement techniques …’). But for other aspects the required level is not clear yet and needs to be specified.

Improved ILOs:
Students…

  • Can describe and compare the most important theories and empirical findings about topic X, topic Y and topic.
  • Can explain the relation between topic X, topic Y and topic Z.
  • Can discuss practical applications of theory X and research findings.
  • Can apply measurement techniques for assessing topic Y and topic Z.

Original ILOs:

  • You will familiarize yourself with topic X.
  • You will learn about important experimental paradigms for studying topic Y.
  • You will study social and cultural determinants of topic Z.


Required adjustments:

  • The type of knowledge and required level of understanding/performance need to be specified.


Improved ILOs:
Students are able to…

  • explain processes of topic X (i.e. process A, process B, process C…);
  • explain the relation between topic Y and topic Z;
  • explain the role of topic Q in process A;
  • explain theories on the role of processes T in the development of applied disciplines.

Original ILOs:
Once you have completed this course, we expect you to be able to:

  • indicate the difference between science and common sense;
  • be informed about the ethical directives governing research;
  • theorize on a particular topic;
  • draw up a research question on the basis of previously acquired theoretical knowledge;
  • be acquainted with various research designs;
  • draw up an appropriate design in order to test a specific hypothesis;
  • design quantitative research for testing a research hypothesis correctly;
  • gather data adequately;
  • analyse data in the right way;
  • interpret the results of a piece of research, referring them back to theory and hypothesis;
  • translate your research into a scientific article in writing in English and in accordance with the APA norms that apply;
  • present your research clearly, in the form of a presentation or poster;
  • understand what went all wrong during the research, and why.

 

Required adjustment:

These ILOs are well-formulated: They are clear regarding the content, type and level of understanding/performance a student is expected to achieve. Small adjustments for further improvement are:

  • This course has 13 ILOs which is rather high. However, several ILOs relate to the same topic and can be combined into one ILO ( e.g. ‘gather data adequately’ and ‘analyse data in the right way’).

 

Well formulated ILOs:
Students are able to…

  • indicate the difference between science and common sense;
  • understand the ethical directives governing psychological research;
  • distinguish and compare various research designs;
  • explain and apply the empirical cycle of research, i.e.:
    • theorize on a particular topic and draw up a research question on the basis of previously acquired theoretical knowledge.
    • translate a research question into hypotheses.
    • draw up an appropriate design in order to test a specific hypothesis (i.e. operationalisation of hypotheses);
    •  design quantitative research for testing a research hypothesis correctly;
    • collect and analyse research data adequately;
    • interpret and discuss the results of a piece of research, referring them back to theory and hypothesis;
    • translate research into a scientific article in writing in English and in accordance with the APA norms that apply;
    • present research clearly, in the form of a presentation or poster;
    • evaluate what went all wrong during the research, and why.


Guiding questions:

  • Are programme ILOs defined? 
    • If not: first start defining programme ILOs.
  • Are the course ILOs in line with the programme ILOs?
    • If not: consider why there is no alignment. Do you need to update your programme ILOs, your course ILOs, or both?
  • Who are the relevant stakeholders, and how are they involved?
    • The central role might differ according to the procedures or work arrangements within your faculty. In some faculties, the course coordinator receives the course ILOs from the programme coordinator. The course coordinator then needs to develop the course based on these ILOs. In other faculties, course coordinators are the ones who develop the course ILOs, albeit that these need to be based on input of the programme director (also called programme coordinator/director of studies in faculties) and agreed upon by the programme director/programme coordinator/director of studies. Policy advisors and educational consultants can assist through the process of developing ILOs.
  • What type(s) of learning do you want to achieve?
    • This can be declarative or functioning knowledge, cognitive processes, skills, competences.
  • What topics will be taught/ learned?
    • E.g. EU institutions and integration theories.
  • What level of understanding or performance do you want to achieve (in line with the course level)?
    • The intended kind of knowledge and the level of understanding/performance can be expressed in an outcome verb. Chose the right verb to formulate the ILO, e.g. from the SOLO taxonomy or Bloom’s revised taxonomy.
  • Are the ILOs written from a student perspective?
    • A student who reads the ILO needs to know what to do and how well to do it to achieve the ILO. The focus is on what the student has to learn, not on what the teacher has to teach.
  • Is the number of ILOs limited?
    • The advice is to limit to five or six ILOs per course.
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