Guide to OBE
Defining Intended Learning Outcomes [ILOs]
Programme Outcomes and Subject Outcomes

Outcomes are the starting point for the programme as a whole and also for individual subjects. It is strongly advised that the programme teams work collaboratively, instead of the programme leader coming up with the set of programme outcomes and subject coordinators individually writing their own sets. A collaborative effort will ensure that the program outcomes and subject outcomes will be aligned.


Distinguishing between Programme Outcomes and Subject Outcomes

Programme outcomes express the major performances in broad terms while the subject outcomes transform the broad goals to specific objectives. They should be aligned and when they are aligned, all outcomes are targeting the same goal.

Therefore, outcomes statements can be written at different levels. As has been mentioned previously, outcome statements should be broad statements, though it can be even broader at the discipline level. For instance, with some of the most general and broadest outcome statements prescribed for the discipline level, we can transform them to specific programme levels thereafter, and subsequently transform them to subject levels.

A quick glance at some general outcome statements at the discipline level, for the ABET Engineering Outcomes, are illustrated in List C that follows:

List C - Outcome Statements List: Discipline Level (Engineering)

  1. to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
  2. to design & conduct experiments as well as analyze & interpret data
  3. to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs
  4. to function in multi-disciplinary teams
  5. to identify, and solve applied science problems
  6. to have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
  7. to communicate effectively
  8. to have the broad education to understand the impact of scientific solutions in a global and societal context
  9. to possess the ability to engage in life-long learning
  10. to possess a knowledge of contemporary issues
  11. to use the techniques, skills, and modern scientific and technical tools necessary for professional practice
    (Source: Applied Science Accreditation Commission, ABET, Inc.)

As illustrated, at the programme level (in this case Engineering), it is not necessary to mention specific matters, but mainly to focus on the major abilities for the profession. For outcomes at such general level, generic and professional competences are the prime concerns. In this regard, they usually do not go into the articulation of the knowledge part íV note that these statements only mention knowledge domains in extremely board terms of mathematics, science, and engineering.

This list encompasses outcomes concerning both professional competence and all-roundedness. For instance, outcomes 1, 2, 3, 5 & 11 represent professional competence, whilst outcomes 4, 7, 9 & 10 represent all-roundedness. It probably requires both professional competence and all-roundedness in order to have outcomes 6 & 8 demonstrated. Therefore, sometimes they are not explicitly separated. To reiterate in other words, all-roundedness and professional competence are indeed complementing each other.

List D íV Outcome Statements List: Programme Level (Master of Business Administration)

  1. (Identify/Diagnose Problems) Ability to identify and diagnose business problems accurately and effectively across a wide range of business domains, including management practices, accounting and financial management, operations, marketing, and strategic management.
  2. (Assess Performance) Ability to assess accurately the performance of an organization across a wide range of performance criteria, including but not limited to financial, operational, ethical, and marketing effectiveness criteria.
  3. (Forecast) Ability to utilize both quantitative and qualitative techniques and evaluations to forecast changes that will affect a business in the future.
  4. (Strategize) Ability to identify, select, and justify strategies and courses of action at the functional, business, and corporate levels of analysis.
  5. (Plan) Ability to develop effective plans for the implementation of selected strategies across a wide range of business domains and levels.
  6. (Communicate) Ability to communicate effectively in a managerial role, including effective presentation of analysis, justification of recommended actions, and persuasive messages intended to affect the perceptions of others.
  7. (Negotiate/collaborate) Ability to negotiate effectively, and to collaborate with others in situations characterized by differing interests and objectives.
  8. (Create Vision/Shared Values) Ability to formulate strategies for creating workplace cultures characterized by a sense of mission, shared values, and high levels of commitment and motivation.
  9. (Evaluate Opportunities) Ability to evaluate business opportunities.
  10. (Ethics) Ability to assess and discuss the ethical and social implications of situations, actions, policies, and proposals.
    (Source: MBA Programme. St Mary's College of California, 2004)

Does this list contain outcome statements at a programme level?

Certainly. At first glance, when compared with outcome statements at a discipline level (e.g., ABET), they contain, to a greater extent, indications of the areas of study (in broad, general terms) to be included.

This is an exemplary and well-articulated list of outcome statements at a programme level. Why? We have discussed different outcome statements previously, at different levels and concerning different abilities, such as academic ones and generic ones. What kind of outcome has been illustrated in this list?

The action verbs are again highlighted and put into parentheses. The list is exemplary, articulates and focuses on the functioning abilities for the following reasons:

It represents professional competences with clear operational action verbs at the appropriate level of performance. In other words, the focus is functioning abilities, as opposed to academic abilities (please recall Figure 2-1 for their relationship)

  1. It captures the key professional competences of managers
  2. While the prime focus of this list is professional competences to be expected of graduates,
    instead of academic content, it links professional competences with the 'content' to be learned

Developing Subject Outcomes from Programme Outcomes

Table D below displays an example of an intended learning outcome for a programme offered by the
School of Hotel and Tourism Management and two of its related outcomes at a subject level.

Programme Level
Subject Level

BA(Hons) in Hotel, Catering and Tourism Management

Define and apply the manageríŽs role in effectively organising, planning and controlling physical and financial resources, motivating human resources, and rendering customer-driven service quality delivery.

(School of Hotel and Tourism Management, PolyU)

Front office and housekeeping management
Describe the ways to motivate different levels of staff in the Housekeeping Department.

Beverage operations and management in catering
Identify the necessary procedures for effective beverage stock control, marketing and sales in restaurant, catering, and wine shop operations.

Table D: Exemplary Outcomes at Different Levels

In the example above, the intended outcomes at subject level relate to the programme outcome in the knowledge and skills (e.g. motivating staff, stock control etc) that they describe. The knowledge and skills described in the programme outcome are put in the context of respective subjects (housekeeping and catering).

You would notice that while the two subject outcomes above are related to the programme outcome on the left, they are hardly the entirety of it. That is because they are just examples, but not a complete list, of related subject outcomes. In reality, each programme outcome should find itself adequately represented at the subject level. When that happens, you can say (with a smile on your face) that there is an alignment between your programme and subject outcomes. Curriculum mapping is a useful tool to help you accomplish that.