In this tutorial, we'll review the definitions of some commonly used terms in education, including standards, skills, objectives, outcomes, and competencies. Then we'll examine the relationships among these terms. Some sources actually use the terms "objectives" and "outcomes" interchangeably, and so that can make it challenging to understand how all of these terms relate to one another. So in this tutorial, we'll use a Venn diagram that will help us see the connections between these concepts in terms of course, unit, and lesson plans. Let's get started.
Let's begin by reviewing the definitions of these various terms. First a standard. A standard is a statement that defines what students should know or what students should be able to do.
Standards are provided from an external source. Teachers aren't writing their own standards. Standards can be written to indicate competencies or content knowledge. Standards are generally written to explain what students are expected to know or be able to do at the end of the year, but they may be broken into smaller and more manageable pieces. These smaller pieces may appear in the forms of objectives, outcomes, competencies, or "I can" statements.
Next, a skill. A skill is a specific statement defining what students should be able to do. Skills then are often written as objectives.
An objective is a statement that defines what students will be able to do by the end of the lesson or unit. Objectives generally begin with the phrase, "students will be able to." And they use academic language to describe the specific skill.
Next, an outcome. Though an outcome could be the target of a particular lesson, typically, an outcome defines what students should be able to do by the end of the unit or course. Outcomes are specific and linked to learning objectives.
And finally, a competency. Competencies are more general statements. They align the skills that are connected to the knowledge that students need to master. They're developed by the instructor and are based on the standards that are being covered. A competency could be the focus of a unit
So let's use a Venn diagram to help us understand how these concepts are related. In the left portion of the diagram, we have your subject standards or your content standards. In the right portion of the diagram are standards such as the ISTE standards, the math practice standards, and application standards that focus on skills. Objectives outcomes and competencies are formed in the conjunction of the skills and the content.
For example, in mathematics, I might blend a subject or content standard about quadratic functions with the math practice standard that encourages students to use appropriate tools strategically. Putting these two pieces together, my objective might read, students will be able to use a graphing calculator to locate the maximum or minimum value of a quadratic function. The ISTE standards could be blended with the English and language arts standards when students are asked to achieve the outcome of creating a video presentation that describes the characters, plot, and other elements of a work of literature. Or the historical thinking standards can be combined with social studies content standards if you ask students to research and analyze the contributions of a particular president in American history. This Venn diagram reminds us to always approach our planning with both our subject standards and skill standards in mind as we craft our objectives, outcomes, and competencies.
In this tutorial, we reviewed the definitions of the terms standards, skills, objectives, outcomes, and competencies. And we used a Venn diagram to understand the relationships among all of these terms.
Now it's your turn to stop and reflect. The next time you are planning instruction, will you look at both your content standards and skill standards? As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set.
Thanks for watching. Have a great day.
(00:00 - 00:34) Introduction
(00:35 - 01:13) Standards
(01:14 - 01:22) Skills
(01:23 - 01:38) Objectives
(01:39 - 01:52) Outcomes
(01:53 - 02:12) Competencies
(02:13 - 03:38) Relationships
(03:39 - 03:51) Review
(03:52 - 04:20) Stop and Reflect
Competencies and Learning Objectives
This handout from University of Texas School of Public Health provides a clear description illustrating the difference between learning objectives and competencies. In addition, the site provides steps for developing competencies tied to Bloom's Taxonomy.
The Art and Science of Designing Competencies
This issue brief provides guidance on writing strong competencies. See page 13 for connecting competencies to curricular tasks.