Skip main navigation

Differences Between Activity Objectives and Learning Outcomes

Discover the differences between activity objectives and learning outcomes.

The purpose of the previous steps has been to get you thinking about what you would like young people to learn when they take part in your activity. This is particularly important if you are aiming to complement curricula or other frameworks. In this step, we look at how to devise objectives and outcomes to help you plan and measure how successful your activity is.

Activity Objectives

Activity objectives are useful to help young people understand what it is they will be learning and why. They also keep you focused when developing your activity. The activity objective is what the activity aims to do, for example provide your perspective or deliver some sort of experience for the young people you work with.

Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are more specific and are used to determine the effectiveness of the activity. They draw upon the current level of knowledge and understanding around a topic area of the group of young people and identify where you would like them to progress to. A learning outcome states what the young people you are working with should achieve, know or be able to do by the end of the activity. Therefore, learning outcomes are set in discussion with the teacher or group leader you are working with. An awareness of learning outcomes will enable you to measure the success of your activity.

What Does a Learning Outcome (Lo) Look Like?

When you approach a teacher or group leader to discuss what the young people will learn from an activity, consider these three questions:

  1. What will the young people be able to do/ accomplish after the activity? When generating your own, use verbs e.g. While learning about xxxx, the young person is able to…… draw, make, calculate, explain, discuss, compare, identify, debate, show, assess……..
  2. What is the context/standard for a satisfactory performance? What ‘success’ looks like is activity specific, but bear in mind to set this standard in keeping with the group, content and age range.
  3. How will the young person show knowledge and understanding to allow you to determine successful delivery of your activity? How you communicate with young people and question them will provide opportunities for young people to show their understanding. We look at this more in the next courses in the program.


Scenario: marine biologist developing an activity for a class of secondary school students.

Activity objective: I want to deliver an activity based on my research looking at the effect of depth on the distribution of corals down a slope and the impact this has on fish diversity and abundance. To achieve this, we will be using video transcripts and photographs of habitat quadrats I recorded during survey work in the Red Sea.

LO1: Students will be able to identify 5 common species of coral reef fish presented through a visual ID quiz.

LO2: Students will be able to record counts of fish species from a video transect and compare with the rest of the class for accuracy.

LO3: Working in small groups, students will be able to analyse the data and create appropriate visual representations which they will then present to the class.

How many learning outcomes you design per activity will vary but should be limited. Effective engagement should aim to get across a few key messages well, rather than lots of messages which can be confusing. In the scenario above I would be aiming to achieve three learning outcomes over the duration of my 60 minute workshop. If you were delivering e.g. a 10-minute table top activity at a family day, I would expect you to be able to successfully share one key message and therefore, enable your participants to meet one learning outcome.


Earlier you were asked to identify one curriculum link that relates to your job/research/area of expertise.
Referring to your chosen curriculum link, write one learning outcome that could be applied to this.
This article is from the free online

Volunteering in the Classroom: Planning and Organising Practical STEM Activities

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now