Academic objectives (which are also referred to as learning outcomes) describe the knowledge, skills and competences that students must demonstrate in their exams to render it probable that they possess the competences which the course in question is intended to develop.
The academic objectives are defined based on the objectives of the course. The academic objectives will always reflect specific choices, and can never cover all the objectives of the course in question. But even so, the academic objectives are still important. This is partly because they form the basis of the final assessment (cf. the Grading Scale Order), and partly because they provide the clearest insight into what the students need to do to fulfil the course objectives – thereby helping the students to work with the academic content of the course. And finally, clear academic objectives create a sound basis for peer feedback.
1. Identify the key qualifications relating to the course objectives.
A large number of academic objectives and a great amount of detail are not sufficient in themselves to ensure a completely satisfactory exam process and a completely clear basis for assessment. The academic objectives you choose should be evaluated critically in terms of how they relate to the course objectives. Try to identify 6-8 academic objectives for each course.
2. Divide your academic objectives into knowledge, skills and competences.
This does not mean that courses must always contain academic objectives in all three categories, but it will help to ensure that all three categories are discussed. The definitions of the concepts of knowledge, skills and competences will help you to identify the differences between the three categories and place the academic objectives in the correct category.
3. Describe the academic objectives using active verbs, nouns and a description of context.
Example: Bachelor’s degree programme in philosophy (2018), course name: Ethics.
Example: Bachelor’s degree programme in English (2018), course name: English Linguistics 1: Levels of language.
4. Think about the position of the course in the academic regulations.
Make sure that the position of the course in the academic regulations matches the academic regulations as a whole, the academic qualifications of the students, and the scope of the course. You should also make sure that there is a clear sense of cross-course progression in terms of taxonomic levels. For more information, please see Knowledge, skills and competences.
If you need some inspiration to design the academic objectives, you can download a handout below containing an exercise involving five short steps.
In ministerial orders and academic regulations, the assessment criteria are referred to as criteria for assessing the fulfilment of academic objectives. The assessment criteria have two important functions:
The assessment criteria describe how the degree of fulfilment of the objectives is assessed. In other words, they answer questions such as:
Here are some examples of what fulfilment of the academic objectives normally requires:
The Bachelor’s degree programme in anthropology has discussed the following possible assessment criteria for the course called “Advanced Anthropological Theory”
In the assessment of the degree of fulfilment, it is important that the student:
Please note: Assessment criteria are a new aspect of academic regulations at the Faculty of Arts. We recommend that our departments test the assessment criteria that they have developed before implementing them in the academic regulations. The Board of Studies Support and Degree Programme Quality Assurance (SNUK) and the Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media (CUDiM) are happy to help, and are also working to produce better guidelines for assessment criteria.