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Intended Learning Outcomes: Who is it intended for?

Thursday 4 July: Conference day two, 11:30am – 12:00pm parallel session



Room 1 – 302-G20, Case Room  



Dr Sophia Huey ShanTan
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Fun Siong Lim
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Dr Jason Wen Yau Lee
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore



Outcomes based teaching and learning (OBTL) is a curriculum design framework based on the principles of constructive alignment (Biggs and Tang, 2011). At the Nanyang Technological University, our OBTL initiative requires all faculty to redesign their courses using an OBTL course outline by first identifying intended learning outcomes, then designing assessment and learning activities to align with those learning outcomes. The purpose of this study is to investigate if OBTL has indeed benefited faculty and students as intended. We expect that faculty will design courses with greater clarity and focus, and that students will use the OBTL course outline as a roadmap to monitor their learning progress.

In 2017 and 2018, we used a mixed methods approach including surveys and interviews to evaluate our OBTL initiative. Our faculty surveys (N=90) and interviews suggest that OBTL has indeed prompted them to improve the clarity and focus of their courses based on intended learning outcomes. In addition, our student surveys (N=196) confirm that there is improved clarity post-OBTL (M=4.13, SD=.59) compared to pre-OBTL (M=3.92, SD=.63), t(194)=-2.38, p<.01. However, student interviews suggest that they do not perceive the learning outcomes as a roadmap to guide their learning. Some even thought it was a waste of their time to read it.

Qualitative analyses suggest that this could be a reflection of the overcrowding of content, which does not allow students to pause and reflect on their own learning, to formulate their own assessments of their learning, and consider how to move forward. In addition, students seem to have an unquestionable reliance on an external authority, and a resistance to directing their own learning. In short, while faculty have found OBTL to be effective in improving the alignment and clarity of courses, we should consider other important factors to increase its benefits to student learning.



Biggs, J. B., Tang, C. S., & Society for Research into Higher Education. (2011). Teaching for Quality Learning at University: What the Student Does (Vol. 4th ed). Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education.
Hattie, J. (2015). The applicability of Visible Learning to higher education. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 1(1), 79–91.


Presentation topic

Students – Learning

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