Programme aims and learning outcomes

All taught programmes should have aims and learning outcomes. The two are closely linked:

  • Programme aims are written from the perspective of the tutor. They set out the broad intention or purpose of the programme.
  • Learning outcomes are written from the perspective of the learner. These are high level statements of the knowledge, skills and attributes that a student is expected to acquire by the end of a module, level of study, and overall programme.

Why set aims and learning outcomes?

Having a clear set of programme aims and learning outcomes is critical to the design of your programme and will inform decisions on:

  • The most appropriate forms of assessment to use throughout the programme
  • The most appropriate methods of teaching and learning
  • Level and module learning outcomes

When to set aims and learning outcomes

Departments should define or review their programme aims and outcomes whenever developing or reviewing a programme.

  • Do this as a programme team activity
  • Consider what you expect students to be able to do/be at the end of their programme and what makes your programme distinct from comparable programmes at other institutions
  • Use Sheffield Graduate Attributes, QAA Subject Benchmark Statements, and Professional Accreditation Requirements as reference points

Setting aims and outcomes

  • All aims and outcomes should be clear, concise and written in plain English.
  • You will also need to set learning outcomes for any new modules, and be able to show how these contribute to the programme learning outcomes
  • It’s best practice to also set learning outcomes for each level of study. These show how students progress and transition through each level of study.

A useful formula to follow is: 'By the end of this [module or programme] students will be able to [action word] in [context]'

Your choice of action word will depend on your subject matter and the knowledge or skills that students will acquire. Bloom's Taxonomy can help you to describe the appropriate level of learning. Examples:

Agree

Analyse

Apply

Carry out

Change

Choose

Commit

Create

Demonstrate

Describe

Design

Detail

Derive

Develop

Discuss

Elicit

Establish

Evaluate

Explain

Explore

Generate

Identify

Introduce

List

Plan

Practice

Produce

Recognise

Report

Risk-assess

Share

Transform

Turn

Use

Note: Beware of 'know,' 'understand' and 'be aware of.' These are difficult to measure.

Examples

Programme and module aims

On the Part B programme approval form you will be asked to provide 3-7 programme aims which set out the broad intention of the programme.

The same guidance applies to setting module learning outcomes, which you will need to provide when completing a module approbal (E-1) form.

BA Journalism aims to:

A1

provide students with a broad understanding of Journalism as a subject of academic inquiry and an arena of professional practice

A2 provide research-led teaching in journalism which reflects and critiques current scholarly work of relevance to the journalism environments
A3 provide students with opportunities to develop specialist knowledge of journalism and the broader media context within which journalism operates
A4 develop students’ critical knowledge and consideration of theoretical and conceptual issues which are central to journalism
A5 develop in students a range of subject specific and generic skills relevant and appropriate to a journalist in print, broadcast, magazine and online
A6 foster high ethical and professional standards

Programme learning outcomes

On the Part B programme approval form you will need to provide 7-10 programme learning outcomes, and also indicate the programme aims these relate to. These are split into knowledge (K) and skills (S). Example below:

On successful completion of the programme, students will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

Links to aim(s)
K1 core chemistry concepts and knowledge to the study of chemistry
K2 current concerns at the level of theory, practice and policy
On successful completion of the programme, students will be able to:

Links to aim(s)

S1 work independently and as part of a team deploying effective organisation, leadership and planning skills
S2 produce designs in a professional manner, taking account of social, environmental, ethical and commercial considerations
S3

carry out and present the findings from research relating to the study of modern languages and cultures, using appropriate research and presentation skills

S4 design and implement programmes which protect and promote the public's health
S5 identify, review and develop their personal and professional values and relate these to their knowledge and understanding of the subject

Level Learning Outcomes

Level learning outcomes describe the skills students are expected to develop over the course of each 'level' of study.

Departments should set level learning outcomes to:

  • Guide the development of modules at each level (particularly where the programme has a high proportion of optional modules)
  • Ensure that there is appropriate progression across the programme relating to each of the programme level outcomes

While these aren't explicitly asked for currently on the Part B programme approval form, it's best practice to write these out in the same way you would for module and programme level outcomes.

Learning outcomes for different levels should include details of:

  • Any overarching aims of the level
  • How they play in to the programme learning outcomes*
  • Details of any essential concepts that students should have grasped by the end of that level

Note: it is possible that some PLOs are not covered at every level.