The instructional design team should always be evaluating the effectiveness of training programs. As your team starts to look at updating programs for 2013, you should take a hard look at your program’s objectives. 2013 is an excellent opportunity for you to make the transition to student learning outcomes. Although student learning outcomes have been a staple of the academic world for the past few years, corporate instructional design has been a bit slower.
If you’ve already transitioned from old-style objectives to student learning outcomes, you’re ahead of the game. If you don’t understand the difference – keep reading. George Carlin once said “People add words to make things sound more important than they really are.” So out of respect to George, let’s go with the simple word “outcomes”. It’s even shorter than objective.
Outcomes are a throwback. They focus on a simple concept – what do you actually want the student to be able to do? For example, a classical objective might be written as: “Upon completion of this class, the student will be able to identify the emergency stop button.” It’s specific, measurable, and attainable – remember those basic rules of objective writing. Does the instructor really want the student to simply identify the switch? What the instructor really wants is for the student to understand why the switch is there, be able to locate and press the button, and make correct situational decisions about when the button should be used.
Why Are Outcomes Good Instructional Design?
2013 presents a great opportunity for you to evaluate your objectives and make the transition to outcomes. Outcomes are good instructional design for many reasons.
Tranistioning to outcomes presents a great opportunity to discuss what you are doing and why it is done a specific way.
You are often able to combine multiple learning objectives into a single, simpler outcome once the focus is on the actual desired end result.
The use of outcomes often provides more freedom for instructional designers and instructors. Multiple viewpoints or methodologies can be used to reach the same outcome, which is useful when the student population is diverse.
Both students and instructors clearly understand the expected result. Students can more clearly understand what they should learn from each instructor.
Outcomes clearly define what the training center should assess in each student. Outcomes allow assessment at a higher level than objectives.
By focusing on the end result, students are required to demonstrate mastery at a higher level than simple motor skills or knowledge recall. Students must be able to pull information from across their knowledge and skill base and apply different elements as required by the situation.
Writing Effective Outcomes
In the simplest form, outcomes express what a student should be able to do. Just like the objectives you are used to, outcomes should be measurable and attainable. Here’s a simple framework for writing good outcomes:
Antecedents set conditions, materials, environments, or other variables needed. An antecedent isn’t always necessary; in many situations it may be implied. Ask if the student can reach the outcome without clarification or other information. Limit the amount of information provided to what is absolutely critical.
Bloom’s taxonomy is still the best source for selecting an appropriate verb for the outcome. The higher-order verbs found in analysis, synthesis and evaluation are more accurate when preparing outcomes. Use only verbs that result in a measurable outcome. Even though Bloom is a foundation of instructional design, some verbs are vague and not easily measured.
Criteria are necessary when quantity, quality, timing and other components of evaluation are elements of the outcome. Criteria are normally found when a very specific, important outcome is defined.
Prepare a draft outcome statement. Keep the basics in mind. What does the student need? What actions are expected, and what should the action result in? Are the results specific and measurable? Above all, keep outcomes relevant and simple. Don’t overthink. Don’t state the obvious. If asking someone to stripe a football field, you probably don’t need to lead the outcome with “given a grass field of sufficient size”.
Look at the outcome you’ve written. Evaluate where it fits in the individual class and the overall training program. Does the outcome align neatly with others you’ve written? Outcomes can be specified at the overall program or course level, at the class level, and at the actual session level. The more diligently you employ outcomes at each level, the stronger your program will become.
Instructional Design and Outcomes
Instructional design teaches that we should constantly evaluate training; the same goes for your newly written outcomes. Evaluate how students perform during assessments. Ask about the correlation between instruction and the outcome as part of your class evaluation tool. Evaluate the outcome against the job performance as part of the curriculum review.
Student learning outcomes represent a positive change for your students, instructional design team, and instructors. Increased flexibility of design and instruction, coupled with a simpler presentation of the desired result help students succeed.
 Learning Outcomes. Tallahassee Community College. Retrieved August 28, 2012. http://content.tcc.fl.edu/cte/Activity1/learning_outcomes_print.html