What is the difference between outcomes and objectives?

You may have heard the terms objectives and outcomes used interchangeably and certainly some of the literature is confused upon the point.  Let’s try to clarify the distinction so that we can build our outcomes for our programs, and learning objectives for our courses and for sessions.

Outcomes Objectives
The essential and enduring knowledge, abilities (skills) and attitudes (values, dispositions) that constitute the integrated learning needed by a graduate of a course or program. Describe in detail the behaviours that students will be able to perform at the end of a unit such as a class, and the conditions and criteria which determine acceptable performance.
Achieved results or consequences; evidence that learning took place Intended Results
High Level, overarching Specific activities/assessments that lead to outcomes
Broader, larger scope, knowledge/skill Specific discrete units of knowledge/skill/competency
Accomplished over time in several learning experiences Can be accomplished in a short period of time—useful for a class session
Refer to reliable demonstrations of performance—results of a course/program—achieved results Can be statements of intent but should be linked to assessment of specific skills/knowledge and to specific strategies suitable for the objectives
Contain conditions under which the student performance will be assessed, as well as criteria for assessment Contain conditions under which the  specific student performance will be assessed, as well as criteria for assessment

Whether you are on a program or curriculum committee to develop outcomes, or are developing objectives for your course or individual session, here are helpful verbs to use and some “weasel verbs”  to avoid:

Words Open to Many Interpretations Words Open to Fewer Interpretations—behavioural and  measurable
To know to write; to explain
to understand to recall
to really understand to identify
to appreciate to sort, to organize, to compare
to fully appreciate to solve, to deconstruct, to follow a model or approach
to grasp the significance of to construct
to enjoy to evaluate
to believe to analyze
to be aware of to estimate

 

Sources:

Developing Clear Learning Outcomes and Objectives http://www.thelearningmanager.com/pubdownloads/developing_clear_learning_outcomes_and_objectives.pdf

How to Write Program Objectives/Outcomes http://www.assessment.uconn.edu/docs/HowToWriteObjectivesOutcomes.pdf

Developing Effective Learning Outcomes & Objectives http://www.cmduke.com/2011/07/23/developing-effective-learning-outcomes-objectives/

 

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