Writing and assessing unit level learning outcomes

Why are learning outcomes important to us?

Let's start by reminding ourselves why we are required to write learning outcomes for our units.  It is important to recognise that current UK Higher Education is, on the whole, an outcomes-based education system that draws heavily on the principles of constructive alignment.

Constructive alignment is an outcomes-based approach to curriculum design originally developed by John Biggs (Biggs, 1999).  It has been incredibly influential in UK Higher Education for at least 10 years and its principles  underpin current requirements for programme specification, declarations of intended learning outcomes (ILOs) and assessment criteria, and the use of criterion based assessment (Houghton, 2004).

Consequently, learning outcomes are a statutory requirement for programme validation and have to be articulated at both the programme and unit levels.  They have been advocated since the Dearing report (1997) by the Quality Assurance Agency.  They are the primary way that we communicate to students what they are expected to do and achieve in their programmes and provide the metrics against which we are required to assess all of our students.  In effect, they should underpin our learning, teaching and assessment strategies. 


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