Whenever I hear or read the phrase ‘learning outcomes’ I think of the story ‘On Exactitude in Science’ by Jorge Luis Borges. It is a short story, very short in fact, coming in at fewer than 150 words. So the danger in attempting to describe what it is about, is that you use more words than Borges himself. The hazards of summary or précis is of course part of its subject. So here it is:
…In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.
—Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658
By learning outcomes I simply mean stating what you expect students to know or be able to do. I suspect there are lots of exegeses in the academic literature, but I assume this definition will suffice. In the context of medicine it seems especially important to be able to tell students what you expect them to know (for the record I do not believe that this is a sensible strategy in all contexts, just most).