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Intended Learning Outcomes: How to use them


Why use ILOs?

The challenge to designers of curricula in higher education is how to harness the use of learning outcomes to view learning from the perspective of the learner, rather than the lecture, and thereby to enrich the quality of learning experienced by undergraduate students. (Allan, 1996)

To maintain high support for students’ learning, ILOs:

  • help learners direct their learning and monitor their own growth or progress (e.g., self-assessment)
  • signal what is important or valued in a lesson
  • provide a framework for an instructor to select the instructional strategies and assessment activities for learners to achieve the outcomes
  • allow the instructor to reflect on the effectiveness of the lesson plan and design (iterative process)

When do I use?

ILOs are used at all levels of learning. For example, the University of Victoria has established institutional-wide intended learning outcomes.

At this level, ILOs tend to be quite broad. At the program-level, ILOs begin to become more specific with the most specificity found at the lesson-level. In between program and lesson ILOs are course ILOs. It is recommended that ILOs are used at all levels.

What are the elements?


Who is learning? Generally expressed as “you.”


What do you want the learners to do? Specifics of what the learner will have accomplished and/or what the learner will do to demonstrate learning and always contains an action verb – see Bloom’s Taxonomy for examples of verbs you can use.


Under what conditions will learners be assessed? Sets the parameters of when learning will take place and be assessed.


What level of performance is expected? Sets the expectations for proficiency and sets the standard for how learning is evaluated (Kennedy, 2007).

Essentially: Under what conditions (context), who (audience) will do what (actions) and how well (criteria).


Examples of ILOs

As is evident in the following examples, lesson-level ILOs are generally more specific, whereas course-level ILOs are somewhat broader.


  • “By the end of the course, you will correctly distinguish the components of precise and clear communication in presentations.”
  • “Through a variety of projects discussed in this course, you will appropriately identify research methods related to specific inquiry questions.”
  • “Following ample practice throughout the course, you will critically reflect on key foundation concepts in relation to your own growth.”


  • “By the end of this lesson, you will succinctly describe the six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.”
  • “Following the reading of War and Peace, you will sufficiently summarize the key literary themes.”
  • “While engaging in dialogue with your peers, you will carefully articulate a solid argument in response to questions posed.”
  1. Allan, J. (1996). Learning outcomes in higher education. Studies in Higher Education, 21(1), 93-108. DOI: 10.1080/03075079612331381487
  2. Kennedy, D. (2007). Writing and using learning outcomes: A practical guide. Quality Promotion Unit,
  3. University College Cork. https://cora.ucc.ie/bitstream/handle/10468/1613/A%20Learning%20Outcomes%20Book%20D%20Kennedy.pdf?sequence=1

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