Intended Learning Outcomes

The role of learning outcomes: Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) are student centred and describe your intentions for your students’ learning; they specify what students should know and be able to do by the end of the module. Learning outcomes are prefaced by the phrase, 'On completion of the programme/module, students will be able to …' and are followed by a verb. The verbs used for module outcomes need to be specific because outcomes need to be measurable; assessment provides the evidence that the students have achieved the specified learning outcomes. It’s therefore best not to use words such as ‘understand’ (‘explain’ is preferable) or ‘be knowledgeable about’ which are difficult to pin down and cannot be clearly identified through assessment.

Definition: An Intended Learning Outcome is a statement of what a student is expected to know and be able to do at the end of a period of learning and how that learning is to be demonstrated and/or represented for assessment. They promote consistency among modules in meeting the University’s academic standards when learning outcomes articulate with the University’s Levels and Awards Framework.

Extra guidance: Intended Learning Outcomes do not usually specify curriculum details, but refer to more general areas of learning. There may be an exception to this in Science and Applied Science subjects (please see link to examples of Intended Learning Outcomes). However, as a 'rule of thumb' it is unlikely there will be more than eight Intended Learning Outcomes per module.

The categories and levels of intended learning outcomes:

Module Specific Skills and Knowledge: These ILOs identify the skills and knowledge particular to the module that are not seen as a normal expectation in a student of the discipline e.g. not all historians need have a detailed knowledge of the Victorian era and the techniques required for studying it.  These ILOs typically refer to abilities in demonstrating specialist knowledge and methods. Module Specific Skills and Knowledge are usually written by the module convener.

Discipline Specific Skills and Knowledge: These ILOs identify skills and knowledge normally expected in all students of the discipline.  These ILOs may have been written by the discipline and the module convener then deletes selects the ILOs that are addressed by the module.

Personal and Key Transferable/ Employment Skills and Knowledge: These ILOs identify the skills and knowledge developed in the module that can be applied outside of the discipline as well as outside of the learning environment.  These are the most broad-based and generic skills, which add value to the student.  This section should not include expressions that suggest that the skills and knowledge are restricted in any way to the programme or module being described.  These skills and knowledge are normally identified by the discipline and the module convener then selects skills and knowledge that are addressed by the module.

Level of skills: Make sure that ILOs are pitched at the same level as the module.  At Level 7 you should use words which make clear the level of complexity expected from students on masters courses. For example, 'knowledge' can be remembered fact, but at Masters level students should be able to use and appraise knowledge, theory and methodology in a critical, evaluative, analytical and exploratory way.  ILOs should reflect this.  Full details can be found in the TQA in Guidance notes to ILOs and in the Levels and Awards Framework.

The components and language of ILOs:

A well-written ILO normally contains the following three components:

  1. A word or words to indicate what the student will have attained.
  2. A word or words to qualify the level of attainment.
  3. A verb that indicates how the student will manifest the attainment.

Consider this learning outcome:

By the end of the module, you should be able to describe in detail the influence of social context on the set text'.
The attainment is ‘describe in detail the influence of social context on the set text’.
The level of attainment is ‘in detail’.
The verb is: 'describe'.