Align assessment to learning outcomes

Aligning assessments to subject learning outcomes is about making sure students build the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

About learning outcomes

Subject learning outcomes set out the key knowledge and skills our students need to master. They're developed through consultation and accreditation processes.

As academics, we need to make sure:

  • our teaching and learning activities help students learn the identified knowledge and skills
  • students have mastered the knowledge and skills before they move onto the next step, whether that's a new session or a professional workplace.

Elements of a subject learning outcome

Subject learning outcomes include:

  • an action or skill, usually identified through a verb such as describe, analyse, evaluate, design or create which indicates the development of skill which can be a cognitive skill or one used in professional practice
  • an area of knowledge
  • a context, such as a professional environment or practice in which the student can apply the skills and knowledge.

Each element is highlighted in the example below:

Be able to evaluate (action) digital media content (area of knowledge) from the perspective of consumers and producers (context).

How to analyse a learning outcome

Analysing your learning outcome is the first step in choosing your assessment method. To analyse a learning outcome:

  • Identify the skills or actions you want students to demonstrate. Is it a cognitive skill or a professional or practical skill?
  • Think about the level of thinking you want students to demonstrate. Are they lower order thinking skills or higher order thinking skills?

The level of thinking is related to the verb in the learning outcome indicating what skill the student is expected to achieve. Look at Revised Bloom’s taxonomy to get a sense of what each level might be expected to do in relation to your learning outcome.

It's also essential that the learning outcomes meet the level of learning required by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). Examples of terminology usually associated with each level of taxonomy are listed below.

Remember

  • Choose
  • Define
  • Find
  • Label
  • List
  • Match
  • Name
  • Recall
  • Relate
  • Select
  • Show
  • Spell
  • Tell
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Which
  • Who
  • Why

Understand

  • Classify
  • Demonstrate
  • Explain
  • Extend
  • Illustrate
  • Infer
  • Interpret
  • Outline
  • Relate
  • Rephrase
  • Show
  • Summarise
  • Translate

Apply

  • Apply
  • Build
  • Choose
  • Construct
  • Develop
  • Experiment with
  • Identify
  • Interview
  • Make use of
  • Model
  • Organise
  • Plan
  • Select
  • Solve
  • Utilise

Analyse

  • Analyse
  • Assume
  • Categorise
  • Classify
  • Compare
  • Conclude
  • Contrast
  • Discover
  • Dissect
  • Distinguish
  • Divide
  • Examine
  • Inference
  • Inspect
  • Motive
  • Relationships
  • Simplify
  • Survey
  • Test for
  • Theme

Evaluate

  • Appraise
  • Assess
  • Award
  • Choose
  • Criticise
  • Deduct
  • Defend
  • Determine
  • Disprove
  • Estimate
  • Evaluate
  • Explain
  • Influence
  • Interpret
  • Judge
  • Justify
  • Measure
  • Opinion
  • Perceive
  • Prioritise
  • Prove
  • Rate
  • Recommend
  • Select
  • Support
  • Value

Create

  • Adapt
  • Build
  • Change
  • Choose
  • Combine
  • Compile
  • Compose
  • Construct
  • Create
  • Delete
  • Design
  • Develop
  • Discuss
  • Elaborate
  • Estimate
  • Formulate
  • Imagine
  • Improve
  • Invent
  • Make up
  • Maximise

Reflective checklist

Review your subject's learning outcomes and assessment tasks and ask yourself:

  • Do the learning outcomes articulate the knowledge, skills and application students need to learn in this subject?
  • Do the assessment tasks give students an opportunity to show they've met the subject's learning outcomes? That is, does the task make sense in light of the subject learning outcomes?
  • Is each outcome covered in at least one assessment task?
  • Is the assessment task clearly described in plain English? Does it include clear guidance on the required content and format?
  • Does the name of the task match the description? For example, an essay task that asks for an executive summary and other subheadings should be called a report.
  • Can you make the assessment tasks more authentic? That is, do the tasks you've chosen reflect how a graduate would apply this knowledge in the workplace?

For more information on reviewing assessment items, visit Assessment review.

Changing subject learning outcomes

Subject learning outcomes (SLOs) align with the Course Level Outcomes (CLOs) to support the achievement of these by the end of a course. Each subject plays a part in ensuring students meet the CLOs, and their assessment tasks are the evidence for this. SLOs are most often reviewed and adjusted as an outcome of a comprehensive course review.

Sometimes, however, SLOs need to be adjusted for currency, accreditation and clarity. There is a process to follow to ensure that any changes do not impact the mapping to CLOs, or to external accreditation requirements.

These are the steps required to do this:

  • Collaborate with the discipline team, subject convenor and teaching team.
  • Review the knowledge, skills and application in the subject and make adjustments to ensure alignment with the SLOs. Review the assessment tasks to inform decisions about changes within the subject.
  • If a change to the subject learning outcomes (SLO) is still required, consult with the Course Director for their course-wide perspective.
  • If a modification is required, you will need to follow the approval processes, working with the Course Director to complete the necessary steps.