Teaching: Wording your learning outcomes

Last updated: Monday, July 03, 2023

In your foundation years you are most likely to be teaching your learners knowledge (e.g. the evidence base on a particular topic, how to apply guidelines to an individual patient) or a skill (e.g. how to conduct a literature search, how to prepare TPN). Sometimes learners may need some background knowledge prior to learning a skill and so the learning outcomes may need to address both these domains.

The following tables aim to help get you started with using the right verbs in your learning outcomes according to what you are teaching (knowledge, skills or attitudes) and the depth of understanding required by your learner. The tables are organised with the simplest concepts at the top (e.g. remembering a fact), becoming more complex as you move down (e.g. being able to apply that fact to make a clinical decision about a patient).

Try to avoid ambiguous phrases such as ‘be aware of’ or ‘appreciate’ or ‘understand’ in learning outcomes as these are difficult to measure.

Knowledge domain

Remember (e.g. facts, theories, principles)
Recall, record, list, define, repeat, name, outline, state, present, match, order, recount, reproduce, replicate
Understand (i.e. the ability to interpret knowledge)
Discuss, clarify, recognise, review, explain, express, describe, report, interpret
Apply (i.e. being able to apply prior knowledge to a new situation)
Demonstrate, illustrate, perform, interpret, apply, employ, use, practice, prepare, modify, predict, extrapolate, manage, solve, choose
Analyse (e.g. breaking down ideas into constituent parts and showing how they relate to each other)

Distinguish, differentiate, calculate, compare, contrast, categorise, appraise, relate, solve, examine, outline, investigate, analyse, inspect, test, debate, question, criticise
Evaluate (e.g. being able to judge the quality of data, construct an argument)
Evaluate, assess, justify, appraise, argue, decide, criticise, defend, judge, predict, value, score, measure

Create (e.g. generation of new knowledge, original work)

Make, propose, design, hypothesise, construct, invent, generate, synthesise, formulate, plan, compose, develop, manage, create, modify.

Skills domain

Imitation (observes skill and tries to reproduce it)
Copy, follow, mimic, repeat, replicate, reproduce
Manipulation (performs skill from instruction)
Act, build, execute, perform
Precision (reproduces skill with accuracy and proportion)
Calibrate, demonstrate, master
Articulation (combines one or more skills in sequence with harmony and consistency)
Adapt, construct, combine, create, modifies
Naturalisation (completes skilful tasks competently and automatically)
Create, design, develop, invent, manage

Attitudes domain

Receive (e.g. willingness to listen, being aware of the existence of certain ideas, directing attention to such ideas)
Accept, ask, attend, choose, describe, develop, follow, give, name, point to, recognise, select, reply, use
Respond (e.g. willingness or satisfaction in responding to certain ideas)
Answer, assist, complete, discuss, help, perform, read, recite, report, respond
Value (e.g. attaches importance to certain ideas, willingness to be identified with the value)
Accept, complete, defend, describe, explain, follow, initiate, justify, propose, share
Organise (e.g. to compare and relate the value to those already held within, establish which values dominate).
Adhere, arrange, compare, defend, display, explain, modify, order, prepare, relate
Characterise (e.g. acts consistently in accordance with values they hold within)
Act, display, influence, listen, perform, practice, propose, question, revise, serve, solve, use