Ineffective vs Effective Intended Learning Outcomes

1. Examine the ILOs below. All of them have some aspect of their design, wording or composition that might render them less effective (or SMART) in the light of the principles we discussed earlier.

2. See if you can identify any potentially ineffective aspects of each ILO below, and consider how you might make them more SMART.

3. Then open the accordion panel to see a revised version of each ILO. Is the revised version more effective? Why?


ILO Example 1

By the end of this session, students should be better able to:

Understand the key features of qualitative enquiry and principles of ensuring research rigour in qualitative studies.

ILO Accordion Widget 1

Suggested alternative

Describe four key features of qualitative enquiry, and explain three principles for ensuring rigour in the context of their own qualitative research.


ILO Example 2

By the end of this session, students should be able to:

Appreciate the value of statistical software for processing data.

ILO Accordion Widget 2

Suggested alternative

Demonstrate how to import, manipulate and export data using spreadsheets and the statistical package R.


ILO Example 3

By the end of this session, participants should be better able to:

Demonstrate basic professional competence as a Java programmer.

ILO Accordion Widget 3

Suggested alternative

Organise, build and test a simple Java program that solves a real-world problem of your choice.



Evaluate your programme-level ILOs

All programmes at Imperial have defined specifications that state the intended learning outcomes. These documents are publicly available on the College website.

Follow the link below and find the specs for your own programme. Look at the ILOs stated there, and consider the following:

  • How would you evaluate the ILOs in light of the principles we have discussed in these pages?
  • Are your ILOS as effective and SMART as they could be?
  • What changes would you make to them?

Imperial College Programme Specifications

Discuss the programme ILOs with your colleagues, and perhaps use the opportunity to evaluate your module-level outcomes too.

Finally, while we have explored how intended learning outcomes can be useful from a curriculum design perspective, we should remember that the ultimate beneficiaries of well-designed ILOs are students. By having a clear idea of what they are expected to do, a constructively-aligned curriculum and transparency around assessment, students can plan for more focused and measurable learning. They will have a clearer view of their educational journey, and they may be better able to appreciate their own learning gains.

These are positive outcomes indeed.


You have now reached the end of the guidance pages on Intended Learning Outcomes. 

You may wish to follow up this brief introduction by attending one of the EDU workshops in teaching and learning, or explore further online resources by returning to EDU Curriculum Design Guidance homepage