Digital Learning Blog

What’s the Difference between Learning Goals and Learning Outcomes?

by | Feb 10, 2022 | Digital Learning Blog, Pedagogical Practice

For over ten years, I’ve been a teaching consultant and helped faculty, both undergrad and graduate professors, restructure their course content with technology tools. My experience offers me a clear view of how some students focus on grades rather than the purpose of the course. Some students received the grade they wanted and succeeded in their class; some struggled with learning content and passing over their basics. However, when I asked students, no matter their grade, what they knew about their lecture’s content, the answer was almost always the same: “Nothing.” To break this destructive learning cycle, we may think about restructuring our course learning path.

As an instructional designer, I always ask the same questions to my faculty: “What do you want your students to learn and do after they complete your course?” These are called “learning outcomes/objectives” and “What’s the difference between learning goals and learning outcome?” Now, let’s pause here, ask yourself, do you have answers to the above questions? 

My experiences have allowed me to share this with faculty last year (during the pandemic). We break up the big picture learning goals into smaller learning outcomes, identifying measures to quantify students’ capability. Focus is spent helping students recognize their capability and a short amount of time reviewing the days’ materials before the class starts. This small change encourages and motivates students to focus on what they want to know, what they have to know, and bring them to a compelling study. Let’s think once again, “What do we want our students to gain after they complete your class?”

For more information about “Grading and Chaos Theory: Frustrations and Exhilarations of Parsing Motivating Factors”, Faculty Focus, Higher Ed Teaching Strategies from Magna Publications.


About the Author:

Shu Fen (Fannie) Tsai, M.S.
Instructional Designer, Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation (DTEI)

Fannie Tsai has over ten years of experience promoting teaching excellence in higher education. As an instructional designer at the Division of Teaching Excellence and Innovation, she supports faculty in designing courses and content for various teaching modes with backward design and learning technologies. UCI faculty appreciate her help in creating a mastery learning path to guide students’ learning. In addition, Fannie is passionate about inclusive teaching. She devotes diligence to facilitating faculty using inclusive technologies to design an accessible learning environment for all students. Fannie joined DTEI in September 2019 after nine years of service as an instructional technology designer at SDSU. She has a B.A. degree in Multimedia/Programing and an M.S. degree in Instructional Technology.