Learning, Teaching and Assessment in Programme Design

Enhancing Learning, Teaching and Assessment in Programme Design

Inclusivity, or inclusive learning and teaching means that all students whatever their background, gender, first language, race or ability/disability have equal opportunities to access learning and realise their potential. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds and all have individual approaches to learning and development, meaning that a standardised approach to education can potentially exclude people. Reducing or removing barriers, and making changes for those students who need it, in order to create an equal starting point for learning is the essence of an inclusive approach.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a different approach and makes the claim that it is possible to create conditions and learning environment that gives all students equal opportunity to learn, taking into account a wide array of learning differences.

‘Universal Design for Learning is a research-based set of principles to guide the design of learning environments that are accessible and effective for all.’

Additionally, the Equality Act (2010) legally requires Swansea University to ensure that all students are able to fully access all aspects of the curriculum irrespective of any protected characteristics that may impact on their ability to do so, and that the University has a responsibility to ensure that they can do this on an equal basis with other students. The Act sets responsibilities for all Higher Education Institutions and sets out very specific requirements when professional competencies must be demonstrated.

Higher Education Institutions are expected to take anticipatory action to ensure that students are not disadvantaged in accessing the curriculum. The most effective and efficient way to meet the requirements of the Equality Act (2010) is to make your teaching inclusive for all students from the beginning.

How can I Ensure my New Programme is Inclusive?

By carefully considering how students access the curriculum and assessments during the development phase, you can design a programme which is inclusive from the beginning and will meets the needs of a wide a group of students as possible. You will find many of the small changes which could be made to teaching and assessment will actually benefit all of the students and not just those with protected characteristics, and will make these students feel more included. The key is to make changes which benefit everybody where possible, and minimize the amount of other adjustments needed for individual students.

Many students may experience different challenges in accessing learning, but it is likely that students with disabilities and/or with health conditions, including mental health conditions will require the most adjustment. During the design of any curriculum, consideration of barriers to access around all aspects of learning, teaching and assessment is essential, in order to deliver a programme which requires as few changes and alternative provision as possible, recognising that there will always be some aspects that individuals with complex support requirements may find challenging.

There is a range of simple changes that can be made to ensure learning, teaching and assessment is inclusive from the start, without reducing competence standards or academic rigour. Key enhancements include:

  • Ensuring learning outcomes are clear and assessable using a range of valid assessment modes.
  • Ensuring all lecture materials are made available in a range of formats including electronically before teaching sessions.
  • Record (audio or video) all teaching sessions for students to use after the sessions and ensure closed captioning is included as standard.
  • Ensure there is a varied range of authentic, valid assessments to enable students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in different ways.
  • Ensure you have a suitable and equally robust alternative assessment prepared for every assessment method you develop.
  • Consider using optional assessment methods to provide students with a choice.
  • Utilise a range of approaches to feedback, including video and audio feedback.
  • For presentations and projects, consider virtual approaches including podcasts or webcasts to ensure all students can present to the best of their ability.

Further information on developing inclusive learning and teaching can be found on the SALT website.

What is a Learning Outcome?

Learning Outcomes are statements of what students will have achieved at the end of a teaching session, module or programme. Outcomes are focused on student learning (what will students learn?) rather than teaching (what am I going to teach?). Each outcome should include three central elements:


When students will be expected to achieve the outcome: ‘by the end of the lesson/module/programme, the student shall be able to…


What the student MUST DO to achieve the Learning Outcomes


The academic level of achievement required (to reflect the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications level descriptors).

How is a Learning ‘Outcome’ Different from an ‘Aim’?

An aim is a statement outlining the intention of the module/programme – what the module/programme intends to provide to the student – and is teaching focused.

Learning Outcome outlines what the student will have achieved by successfully completing the module/programme and is student-focused.

Example: “The module aims to help participants to develop their role as health educators in their everyday work so that health education is not separated from normal activities”.

How do I Write a Learning Outcome?

Based on the three central elements of Learning Outcomes: Condition, Performance and Standard (see ‘What is a Learning Outcome?’, Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (published in 1956 and revised in 2001) provide a way to express learning outcomes that reflects cognitive skills. When writing learning outcomes, you must bear in mind your proposed learning and assessment methods – you may find you develop or modify these as a result of your outcome writing.

Learning Outcomes must be achievable within the set time-frame, whether it be a teaching session, module or whole programme and should be written with SMART in mind (see ‘What makes a good Learning Outcome?’).

Bloom’s Taxonomy illustrates the six levels of cognitive skills (lowest to highest). These levels broadly correlate to the FHEQ Levels as shown in the graph below:

Bloom's Taxonomy Verbs

These levels broadly correlate to the FHEQ Levels as shown in the table below:

Bloom’s FHEQ Level
Remembering 3-4
Understanding 4-5
Applying 5-6
Analysing 5-6
Evaluating 6-7
Creating 7-8

You can also use Bloom’s taxonomy to identify verbs to describe student learning, as shown in the table below:

Level Attributes Appropriate Verbs
Remembering Exhibiting previously learned material by recalling facts, terms, basic concepts and answers. choose, find, define, label, show, spell, list, match, name, relate, recall, select
Understanding Demonstrating understanding of facts and ideas by organizing, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions and stating main ideas compare, contrast, demonstrate, interpret, explain, extend, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, rephrase, translate, summarize, show, classify
Applying Solving problems by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques and rules in a different way. apply, build, choose, construct, develop, interview, make use of, organize, experiment with, plan, select, solve, utilize, model, identify
Analysing Examining and breaking information into parts by identifying motives or causes; making inferences and finding evidence to support generalizations. analyze, categorize, classify, compare, contrast, discover, dissect, divide, examine, inspect, simplify, survey, take part in, test for, distinguish, list, distinction, theme, relationships, function, motive, inference, assumption, conclusion
Evaluating Presenting and defending opinions by making judgments about information, validity of ideas or quality of work based on a set of criteria. award, choose, conclude, criticize, decide, defend, determine, dispute, evaluate, judge, justify, measure, compare, mark, rate, recommend, rule on, select, agree, interpret, explain, appraise, prioritize, opinion, ,support, importance, criteria, prove, disprove, assess, influence, perceive, value, estimate, influence, deduct
Creating Compiling information together in a different way by combining elements in a new pattern or proposing alternative solutions. build, choose, combine, compile, compose, construct, create, design, develop, estimate, formulate, imagine, invent, make up, originate, plan, predict, propose, solve, solution, suppose, discuss, modify, change, original, improve, adapt, minimize, maximize, delete, theorize, elaborate, test, improve, happen, change

Verbs to Avoid when Writing Learning Outcomes

There are some verbs to avoid when writing learning outcomes. These verbs are vague and often not observable or measurable. For example, how would you measure whether someone has “become familiar with” a particular tool or “appreciates” the subject? Use a more specific verb which can be demonstrated and assessed. If you want students to “understand” something, think more closely about what you want them to be able to do or produce as a result of their “understanding”, and at what level they will expected to demonstrate this.


How Many Learning Outcomes should I Have?

There are no rules on how many outcomes are appropriate per teaching session, module, programme or even per credit point. Any attempt to standardise this would be artificial. Some modules may have many outcomes that are fairly easily achieved and assessed. Other, perhaps higher level, modules may have fewer, more complex outcomes that are more demanding to acquire and demonstrate.

However, all learning outcomes must be achievable within the time-frame of the session, module or programme and demonstrated through the assessment methods described. Learning outcomes for teaching sessions can be specific to each element of teaching, but modular  outcomes should be kept more general. Programme level learning outcomes should be at the highest level, and care should be taken to ensure these outcomes reflect the nature of the programme and subject area, and provide students with the necessary skills of their chosen subject. Teaching session and Module outcomes should reflect the overall programme outcomes, which should be clearly illustrated through a curriculum map.

What Makes a Good Learning Outcome?

A good learning outcome is clear, direct and SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. It should be clear to students what they have to achieve, at what level and by when, and how this will be demonstrated/assessed.

Good learning outcomes are written using language and skills which can be clearly achieved within the time-frame and define the level of achievement effectively, aligned with the FHEQ.

Good learning outcomes can be assessed using a number of different assessment methods to ensure flexibility and inclusivity for all students, which will enable them to demonstrate their own skills and learning styles effectively.

Good learning outcomes do not use vague or unmeasurable descriptors, such as:

  • Understand
  • Appreciate
  • Know about
  • Become familiar with
  • Learn about
  • Become aware of 

How do I Use Learning Outcomes to Enhance my Teaching?

When you have concrete and specific learning outcomes you can use those learning outcomes to assess student learning through worksheets or one-minute papers or other innovative assessment types such as clicker tests, where students demonstrate that they have met the learning outcome.

Clear and effective learning outcomes illustrated on a Curriculum Map will help you to identify any gaps or repetition in your teaching and enable you to develop a clear assessment strategy to ensure all outcomes are effectively demonstrated without over assessing students. This will also enable you to enhance curriculum design through the use of spiral curricula and formative assessment elements to enhance student learning.

How do Learning Outcomes Inform my Learning?

Clear learning outcomes for teaching sessions enable you to understand what you are expected to learn from each session, and can help you target additional reading to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the subject area. They will also help you to prepare for assessment and examinations by enabling you to focus revision on what you are expected to achieve at the end of the programme or module.

Learning outcomes can also help you to engage with the design and improvement of modules and your course where you feel any outcomes are undefined or have not been adequately covered through teaching or assessment.

Where can I Find Learning Outcomes for my Course or Module?

You will be able find the learning outcomes for your Programme and Modules in your Student Handbook and/or through the relevant pages on Canvas.

Some subject areas set learning outcomes for each teaching session – this is being encouraged to help you shape your learning. These should be provided to you in advance of or at the start of the session.

Example Learning Outcomes

Good Practice

By the end of this module students will be able to:

  • Construct a search statement using topic-relevant and controlled vocabulary in order to search databases with maximum effectiveness.
  • Develop topic-relevant vocabulary in order to search databases with maximum flexibility and effectiveness.
  • Describe the structure and organization of the brain in relation to the key topics of stress, obesity and pain.
  • Recognise, utilise and define key terms in neuroscience.
  • Discuss the role of genes and the interaction between genes and environment and how they influence both brain function and behaviour.
  • Apply the basic principles of psychopharmacology in relation to recreational drugs.
  • Evaluate the main brain systems that underpin emotional regulation.

These outcomes are clear, well define, linked to appropriate levels of study and can be assessed in a range of different ways to ensure assessment is flexible and inclusive for all students.

Poor Practice

By the end of this module students will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of management and organisational theory to company effectiveness.
  • Be aware of the value of sound capital and commercial planning.
  • Appreciate the importance of quality control and the various methods of assuring quality for customers in both traditional manufacture and in the composite assembly methods.

These outcomes are not well defined, are not clearly linked to a level of study or achievement and have no clear mechanism of assessment.

What is a Curriculum Map?

Simply put, a Curriculum Map is a visual representation of how and where the modules which create the programme deliver the programme learning outcomes through teaching, practice and assessment.

How do I Produce a Curriculum Map?

The University has produced sample templates for developing curriculum maps at various levels. Curriculum Map template is available here. You can complete curriculum mapping at a number of levels (overall programme level, or by each level of programme), but the key principles are to demonstrate how the programme outcomes are delivered through the modules. This can be applicable to all programmes, even those with a large range of optional modules, but ensuring the underpinning outcomes across modules from each optional pathway are mapped (this also helps to ensure that students will develop an equivalent overall skillset). Curriculum mapping can also include reference to QAA Subject Benchmark Statements and accrediting, professional or statutory body requirements to demonstrate how the programme meets the required outcomes. Curriculum mapping is a requirement for all new programmes and for those undergoing a Quality Review, and is strongly recommended as evidence when a Subject Benchmark has been altered. If you do not submit a curriculum map, or if it does not fully demonstrate how the programme outcomes are delivered through Teaching, Practice and Assessment, your programme will be referred back to the Faculty/School during initial scrutiny to enhance the map.

The general concepts of creating a curriculum map can be summarised as follows:

  1. Add programme outcomes for each domain on the left of the template. Add the module codes and/or individual outcomes along the top of the template. The next element, where required, is to add any Subject Benchmark outcomes, or professional body competencies/standards on the right of the template, opposite the most relevant domain and/or programme outcomes.
  2. Once this framework is complete, it should enable you to begin to identify which each of the programme outcomes (and benchmarks/professional standards) are taught, assessed and practiced. The most common notification is to use T (taught), A (assessed) and P (practiced).
  3. Once you have populated the map, reflect on the distribution of the delivery and assessment of the outcomes. Are you over or under delivering or assessing? Are you repeatedly assessing the same outcome or skill, do you need to? In this way you should begin to identify any repetition or gaps in the curriculum, and should arrive at a final programme which is effectively balanced across in terms of delivery across the programme outcomes.

Training on curriculum mapping is provided through the Development and Training Services.

When do I Need to Provide a Curriculum Map?

Curriculum maps are mandatory for all new programme approvals, amendments to existing programmes and periodic programme reviews, and when revised QAA Subject Benchmark statements are published. You should ensure that your curriculum map is reviewed at least annually as part of the module review/programme review process.

How can Curriculum Mapping Enhance my Programme?

Curriculum mapping can aid in programme development and delivery, and can actively enhance your curriculum. Developing a curriculum map can:

  • Help Programme Directors and teachers understand what is taught and when.
  • Assist Programme Directors and teachers in creating integrated and interdisciplinary learning that foster students’ understanding of concepts, ideas, and activities across subject areas.
  • Help coordinate and integrate areas of study into larger units (even if they are assessed separately by subject area).
  • Foster conversation about curriculum design, development, teaching and assessment amongst programme staff.
  • Assist the students in finding common themes within subject areas, and aligning understanding between different topic or subject areas.
  • Assist teachers adjusting their own teaching sessions during the year.
  • Demonstrate to students how the learning outcomes relate to teaching and assessment. 

How Much Assessment Should I Use?

Assessment load must be balanced and appropriate for the subject area across the entire programme. When setting assessment at modular level, consideration must be given to how this reflects the credit weighting of the module, and how the assessment type works within the overall assessment strategy of the module. Guidance on appropriate assessment load is included in the guidance for Developing New Modules and Reviewing and Enhancing Modules. 

What is an Assessment and Feedback Strategy and Why do I Need to Provide One?

An Assessment and Feedback Plan is a document which provides students and staff with a comprehensive overview of the assessment patterns of a programme, ensuring assessment variety and balance, and to determine that the assessments contribute to the development of learning through effective and regular use of feedback. The Programme Approval Committee reviews the variety, effectiveness and balance of assessment across the entire programme to ensure that students are not over-assessed, and therefore completion of an Assessment Strategy is a core requirement for Programme Proposals. 

A template is available here and your Assessment Strategy can then become your Assessment Schedule once the programme is launched.

How do I Produce an Assessment and Feedback Strategy?

An assessment strategy is simple to produce (we are working to automate some of it from the information you will have provided in the Module Proformas). A template is available here and your Assessment and Feedback Plan can then become your Assessment Schedule once the programme is launched. Essentially all that you are required to do is add the assessments per constituent module of the programme into the spreadsheet template, and add in the approximate submission/assessment date and date students would expect their feedback. This will then give you an overview of the assessment at programme level, and enables you as Programme Director to ensure the correct balance and variety of assessment, the presence of formative assessment and to ensure that students do not have peak points in their assessment calendar.

What is Authentic Assessment and Why Should I Use it?

Authentic Assessment, utilising meaningful tasks in context centred settings is a powerful tool in both formative and summative assessment situations. It assesses competence as well as knowledge and values achievement. It is already being used creatively and effectively at Swansea University. Making assessment more authentic enhances students’ engagement with assessment, and enables them to develop a greater skillset than more traditional methods. As authentic assessment is focused or (or more related to) likely work-based tasks, students can also more easily see the benefits to them in terms of learning and development. Visit the SALT website for further information on Authentic Assessment. 

How can I Make Assessment More Authentic?

SALT has published a guide and hosted a seminar on developing authentic assessment, from which videos are available, that provide case studies, support and information about making assessment authentic. It is also worth identifying key work-related tasks and/or discussing required skills and attributes with employers and/or the Swansea Employability Academy to ensure assessments can be developed authentically. 

How can I Enhance Employability through Curriculum Design?

When developing a new programme it is important that the modules and content do not just deliver academic skills for students, but effective, employment focused skills and a creative mind-set, which will give Swansea graduates a competitive edge in the job market. It is important, therefore to ensure that the programme stimulates students to develop an effective way of thinking, and enables them to develop these skills alongside their learning. Engagement with employers throughout the process of programme development is important to ensure the programme will deliver the skills employers need, but also ensuring that students are developing generic employment focused skills through effective and authentic learning and assessment processes will be critical. In addition, the University has developed a range of entrepreneurship modules through LEAD Wales that can be offered as part of students’ programmes, and the Swansea Employability Award can also be embedded within modules to ensure students can achieve this award for demonstrating key skills, which will be reflected on their HEAR record.

For further information in embedding employability within programmes, please contact your Faculty/School Director of Employability or the http://www.swansea.ac.uk/sea/.

Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (ESDGC): What does it Mean and How is it Relevant to my Programme?

The University aims to equip its alumni, as future leaders, professionals and citizens, to better understand the issues and impacts of non-sustainability, and to apply their university learning in ways which more effectively contribute to the design of sustainable solutions and impacts. Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship means providing students with experienced and appropriate transferable skills to equip them for the workplace and their role in building and sustaining the future global community.

When developing new programmes, developers and Faculties/School should consider how their programme will contribute towards this aim.

Examples of how programmes can include ESDGC are as follows:

  • Positioning subject/matter within a local and a global context.
  • Linking subject matter to environmental and global issues.
  • Developing key and transferrable skills, in particular critical thinking.
  • Leadership skills.
  • Research skills.
  • Employer focused placements and learning opportunities.

Paying due attention to these principles in the design of the programmes should facilitate the approval process and will also assist in undertaking annual module and programme review, and contribute towards the Quality Review process.


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