Teaching & Learning

How to write ILOs

5 Steps to writing ILOs

It can be useful to consider using the following 5-step process in designing ILOs:

  1. Decide on the Purpose
  2. Identify the Content
  3. Select the Appropriate Verb
  4. Add the Context (when necessary)
  5. Ensure Clarity

Below is more information about each of these steps, with reference to the examples on the Components of an ILO page.

1 2 3 4 5

Step 1: Purpose

The first step in developing learning outcomes for a unit of study is to identify the purpose of the unit. This can be done by considering and answering the following questions:

  • Why is this unit being offered?
  • What is it that students need to learn in this unit so that they can progress through the course and achieve the Course Learning Outcomes? (i.e., where does what students learn in this unit fit within the whole course structure?)
  • If one of your students was asked what they learnt in your unit, what would you like the student to say?
  • What specific intellectual and practical skills will a student leave the unit with that they lacked when they started?
  • What will every student who passes this unit know, understand and be able to do?

Some examples of purpose for different units:

Example Purpose 1:

Students will understand Newton's three laws of motion, and the revolution these were in the understanding and explanation of motion. They will be able to explain the concept of objects in linear and in rotational motion. They will understand the relationships between motion, force and energy.

Example Purpose 2:

Students will learn about anatomy and basic functions. They will learn about clinical scenarios, and how to get the information needed to identify abnormalities.

Example Purpose 3:

Students will understand critical reflection, and how it can be used to evaluate and improve their practice. They will know what the four lenses that can be used to evaluate their teaching are, and will use them to review multiple aspects of their own and others' practice.

Once you have clarified the purposes of the unit, organise your ideas into 2 to 6 key purposes (3 or 4 is more common). These need to be written in way that is both measurable and easily understood by students. To ensure this, intended learning outcomes (ILOs) should be written in a way that specifies 

the verb at the appropriate level of understanding or of performance intended; the topic content the verb is meant to address, the object of the verb in other words; the context of the content discipline in which the verb is to be deployed (Biggs & Tang, 2011, p. 125).

The following steps provide guidance on how to achieve this.