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It is one thing to articulate learning outcomes for our programs and courses but it is another thing all together to design a curriculum that leads consistently to the realization of those outcomes. If we intend significant learning for our students, one-shot instruction will not be enough. To intentionally develop important values, skills, and knowledge, we will need to create courses and curricula that provide multiple opportunities to encounter ideas and skills, to rehearse their use, and to assess growing student mastery both within and across courses.
L. Dee Fink says it this way: "What the good colleges are doing and others need to do is to look carefully at the kind of learning they would like to see in their graduates and then ask themselves: What kinds of learning experiences would our students need to have to achieve these goals? Where in our curriculum are the desired skills, knowledge, and attitudes going to be acquired and developed?" (Creating Significant Learning Experiences, 203) If an outcome is a destination on a map, carefully planned learning experiences are the freeways and city streets that lead to that destination.
Aligning learning experiences and learning goals requires a willingness to design curricula to meet student needs rather than designing those curricula to accommodate faculty interest. Furthermore, such alignment requires an enthusiastic devotion to developing student competence, not just an obstinate insistence that, for example, "kids can't write these days!" As D. W. Farmer encourages us to understand, "It does not do any good to point out deficiencies to a student unless at the same time a plan is available to correct them" (Enhancing Student Learning, 175-176).
David Perkins offers a different perspective on this issue by asking us to anticipate the hard parts of topics, issues, and disciplines with a simple question. "'What makes this hard?' When we have a good answer to this question, we are anticipating the hard parts that go with a particular topic or activity. Maybe with the right approach, we can prevent those hard parts from doing their worst damage" (Making Learning Whole, 101).