People Innovation Excellence

Writing Course Intended Learning Outcomes (CILO)

by Ono Supriadi, Ph.D

When discussing “Learning Outcomes”, the first thing comes up in mind is “what is learning outcomes?”. The phrase “Learning outcome” consists of the words “learning” and “outcomes”. “Learning” is the process of change. The Change through acquiring new or modifying existing thing[1]. Evidence that there has been a learning process is a change. For instance, the change from not knowing to knowing (knowledge); change from rogue to good (behaviour); change from not being able to be able (skills); change from inconsistency becomes more consistent (value), or change from one option to another (preference). Someone is said to have learned if there are changes in him; changes in knowledge, behaviour, skills, values, or preferences. Now, the word “outcomes”. “Outcomes” is the final results of a process or the possible or likely result of something[2]. The word “intended” in the phrase “Intended Learning Outcomes” means purposed, planned, proposed or expected. This implies that the learning process itself is the conscious process, and the expected outcomes result from the pre-designed learning activities. Last, the word “course” in the phrase “Course Intended Learning Outcome” gives the context for learning outcomes which reflects the students’ expected level of learning at a course level, not a program level, for instance. This context also implies that the faculty develops learning outcomes for individual courses within a program. The word “course” also indicates the content of learning activities which reflect the faculty and the community collectively identify as the essential knowledge, skills, attitude, etc., required by students in the subject area.

 

Therefore, it could be inferred that “course intended learning outcomes (CILO)” is the (likely) changes that exist at the end of the learning process; it is “what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning”[3]; it is “…. what the learner will know and be able to do by the end of a course”[4]; it is “… specific knowledge, practical skills, areas of professional development, attitudes, higher-order thinking skills, etc., that faculty members expect students to develop, learn, or master during a course”[5]; it is the designed changes expected to occur to a learner in his/her knowledge, behavior, skills, values, and/or preferences, etc., at the end of his/her learning activities.

 

 

Below are the guidelines for writing CILOs. It is said that learning outcomes (LOs) written at the course level should do the following[6]:

 

  • State clear expectation – learners know what they have to do to demonstrate that they have achieved the learning outcomes;
  • Represent the culminating performance of learning and achievement – meaning the highest stage of development, or exit, end performance;
  • Describe performances that are significant, essential, and verifiable – meaning that performances can be verified in some way and that the performance is considered to be essential for success in the course;
  • Preferably state only ONE performance per outcome;
  • Refer to learning that is transferable – meaning that the learning can readily be transferred from a class to a workplace environment, or from one work environment to another;
  • Not dictate curriculum – meaning that there could be a number of different ways to achieve the outcome;
  • Reflect the overriding principles of equity and fairness and accommodate the needs of diverse learners; and
  • Represent the minimum acceptable level of performance that a student needs to demonstrate in order to be considered successful.

 

One course or subject typically contains 5 – 8 broadly stated learning outcomes (LOs) that represent students’ integrated and essential learning of the course[vii].  The CILOs could be framed by using the acronym S-K-A[viii] which stand for:

  • Skills (Psycho-motor) :   What students should be able to do by the time the course is completed.
  • Knowledge (Cognitive) : What students should know and understand by the time the course is completed.
  • Attitudes (Affective) :   What the students’ opinion will be about the subject matter of the course by the time it is completed

 

To identify the skills, knowledge, and attitudes the students should gain throughout the course, the CILO statements could be written that begin:

 

“By the time the students finish the course, they should be able to …” and then supplying a strong action verb. See the following CILO statements:

  • By the time the students finish the course, they will have demonstrated the ability to make engine repairs on a variety of automobiles.
  • The successful student has reliably demonstrated the ability to administer medications according to legal guidelines.
  • The successful student has reliably demonstrated the ability to make pricing decisions using relevant cost and profitability factor.
  • By the time the students finish the course, they will have demonstrated the ability to analyze engines and make decisions regarding required repairs for a variety of automobiles.

 

When writing learning outcome statements it is often easier to use an action verb derived from the domains of learning outlined in Bloom’s Taxonomy. See the table below[ix]:

Domain Simple Definition   Example Verbs
 

 

Cognitive

Knowledge Remembering information Arrange, Define, Describe, Duplicate, Identify, label, List, Match, Memorise, Name, Order, Outline, Recognise, Reorganise, Reproduce, Recall, Record, Recount, relate, Repeat, Select, State
Comprehension Explaining information Clarify, Classify, Convert, Describe, Discuss, Distinguish, Estimate, Explain, Express, Extend, Generalise, Give example(s), Identify, Indicate, Infer, Locate, Paraphrase, Predict, Recognise, Reorganise, Report, Restate, Review, Select, Summarise, Translate
Application Use information in new ways Apply, Choose, Demonstrate, Dramatise, Employ, Illustrate, Interpret, Intervene, manipulate, Modify, Operate, Practice, Predict, Prepare, Produce, Relate, Schedule, Sketch, Solve, Use, Write
Analysis Distinguish different parts Analyse, appraise, Breakdown, Calculate, categorise, Compare, Contrast, Criticise, Debate, Differentiate, Discriminate, Distinguish, Examine, Experiment, Identify, Inspect, Infer, Investigate, Outline, Question, Relate, Test
Synthesis Compile information into alternate solution Arrange, Assemble, Categorise, Categorise, Collect, Combine, Compose, Construct, Create, Design, Develop, Devise, Elaborate, Explain, Formulate, Invent, Manage, Modify, Organise, Plan, Prepare, Propose, Rearrange, Revise, Rewrite, Set up, Start, Summarise, Synthesise, Tell, Write
Evaluation Defend ideas or concepts Appraise, Argue, Assess, Attach, Choose, Compare, Conclude, Contrast, Create, Criticise, Defend, Describe, Discriminate, Estimate, Evaluate, Interpret, Judge, Justify, Measure, Predict, Rate, Relate, Revise, Score, Select, Support, Summarise, Value
Affective Perception of values Accept, Complete, Perform, Participate, Question, Solve
Psycho-motor Developing practical skills Assemble, Calibrate, Collect, Design, Document, Measure

 

Note:

Verbs to avoid when writing CILO statements include: Appreciate, Be aware of, Enjoy, Know, Perceive, Realize.[i]

 

Analysing the example of the CILO statements given above, they may be broken into four main components[ii]:

  • A completion context that states when the learning performance should have been acquired;
  • An action word that identifies the performance to be demonstrated;
  • A learning statement that specifies what learning will be demonstrated in the performance; and
  • A broad statement of the criterion or standard for acceptable performance.

 

See the example below:

CONTEXT

(Completion time)

ACTION WORD

(Performance)

LEARNING STATEMENT

(Learning)

CRITERION

(Conditions of the performance demonstration)

By the time the students finish the course, they will have demonstrated the ability to make engine repairs on a variety of automobiles.
The successful student has reliably demonstrated the ability to administer medications according to legal guidelines.
The successful student has reliably demonstrated the ability to make pricing decisions using relevant cost and profitability factor.
By the time the students finish the course, they will have demonstrated the ability

to analyze

and make

 

 

 

Engines

decisions

regarding required repairs for a variety of automobiles.

 

Well, why we should write the CILOs clearly? Because clear learning outcome statements can be “immensely helpful when constructing assessment as they give a clear steer on what to assess, both level and context”[i].

[i]   “Guidance on Writing Learning Outcomes”, (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ltds/assets/documents/res-writinglearningoutcomes.pdf).

[i]   “Learning Outcomes – Learning Achieved by the End of a Course or Program”, (http://liad.gbrowne.on.ca/programs/InsAdult/currlo.htm).

[ii]   Idem

[1] Preiss, D.D. & Sternberg, R. J. (Eds). (2010). Innovations in Educational Psychology: Perspectives on Learning, Teaching, and Human Development”. New York: Springer Publishing Company, LLC.

[2] MacMillian Dictionary, (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/outcome).

[3] “Writing and Using Learning Outcomes: a Practical Guide”, (http://www.procesbolonski.uw.edu.pl/dane/learning-outcomes.pdf).

[4] “Learning Outcomes – Learning Achieved by the End of a Course or Program”, (http://liad.gbrowne.on.ca/programs/InsAdult/currlo.htm).

[5] “Learning Outcomes – Definitions and Background”, (https://www.uwo.ca/tsc/resources/selected_teaching_topics/curriculum_course_design/learning_outcomes.html)

[6]  “Guidelines to the Development of Standards of Achievement through Learning Outcomes”, 1994. College Standards and Accreditation Committee.

[vii] “What is a Course-Specific Learning Outcomes (LO)?”, (https://www.uoguelph.ca/vpacademic/avpa/outcomes/coursespecific.php).

[viii]             “Intended Learning Outcome”. MIT Learning & Teaching Laboratory, (http://tll.mit.edu/help/intended-learning-outcomes).

[ix] “Writing Learning Outcomes”, (https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/teaching/documents/guidance/lo-guidance.pdf).


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