In the previous two sections we clarified some key curriculum design terminology.

We described learning aims as high-level ‘mission statements’ for a programme or module, and learning objectives as operational descriptions of teaching intention – how the educator intends to facilitate the achievement of those aims.

Intended learning outcomes (ILOs) are quite different. In contrast to aims and objectives, ILOs draw our attention away from what the teacher wants to do. They focus instead on what students will be doing.

ILOs are concise statements of how learners will demonstrate that they have achieved the intended learning at the end of a programme or module. They describe what learners will be expected to be able to do if they have been successful, and they indicate the appropriate level of learner achievement.

ILOs describe observable, measurable (assessable) demonstrations of knowledge, skills and understanding. They are derived from the high-level learning aims we discussed earlier, and they are closely aligned with both the learning activities and with the methods of assessment.

We will look more closely at principles and best practices for designing ILOs in a later section, but for now, here is an example of a set of well-written ILOs. Again, these are from an Engineering Design module at Imperial.

Upon successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Prepare engineering drawings, including 3rd angle projection, sectional views, auxiliary views, dimensions, limits and fits, and tolerances.
  • Describe the function and application of common mechanical parts.
  • Identify applications of a CAD system to real design, drafting and manufacturing processes.
  • Use a CAD system to prepare simple part and assembly models and to prepare detailed drawings of the models.

Compare this set of intended learning outcomes with the learning objectives we discussed in the previous section. Both are from the same Engineering Design module, but can you identify at least three ways in which the ILOs are fundamentally different to the learning objectives? 

In the video below, Principal Teaching Fellow Kate Ippolito, from the Educational Development Unit at Imperial, discusses how she harnesses the power of ILOs for effective curriculum design.

Using Intended Learning Outcomes

Kate Ippolito, Principal Teaching Fellow in Imperial College London's Educational Development Unit, explains why she finds intended learning outcomes (ILOs) useful for educational design.
 
 
In the next section, we take a closer look at the issue of levels. How do we decide the appropriate level of challenge when we are designing for learning, and how can we embed this within our ILOs so that students are clear about what we expect from them? We explore Bloom’s Taxonomy as a helpful guide to classifying and describing levels of learning.