In recent years there has been an increasing reference to learning goals and learning outcomes in the world of education. The construction of learning goals and learning outcomes is increasingly being included in the tasks of a lecturer. In some cases, however, there can be confusion about the exact dividing line between the two concepts. The following information looks at this boundary in more detail.

  • Learning goals
    Learning goals indicate what a student should be able to know and/or do at the end of the learning situation (e.g. lecture, practical, session). They provide students with an indication of which topics (learning content) should be known at which level (e.g. knowledge, insight) at the end of one class. Learning goals are nevertheless not created out of thin air. They are derived from learning outcomes.
  • Learning outcomes
    Learning outcomes are intended to assess whether a person is suitable to function in practice. They describe the qualities (knowledge, skills, attitudes) that a person should be able to fulfil in professional practice. Competencies are thus positioned very close to the professional field.

In summary: learning goals indicate what a person should know at the end of a learning situation, whereas learning outcomes indicate what a person should know at the end of a programme or course. What is actually the difference between these two concepts? As previously noted, learning goals are derived from the programme en course learning outcomes. They are the ‘building blocks’ of the learning outcomes. The construction of learning goals and their achievement by students brings students closer to acquiring specific learning outcomes, and thus closer to being able to practice a profession well. 

For example:
A fictitious learning outcome from the field of medicine: ‘The physician should be able to build a relationship of trust with the patient and communicate information to the patient properly’. The following is an example of a learning goal that could be associated with this learning outcome: ‘The student should be able to use the communication tips when conducting a conversation with a patient’. In this class, therefore, it is logical that the communication tips would be provided.