A Key Learning is a high level overview of what you want students to know, understand or be able to do along with values or attitudes they have attained at the end of a unit. It can be a summary of your learning intentions that demonstrates the "why" of the unit.
Anyone can throw ingredients into a dish, cook it for an hour and have something that resembles edible food. The same can be said for putting together a unit of learning - just give it a name, add some outcomes and everything will be ok!
Like anything you would serve up it is not what it looks like on the outside - it is what's inside that matters! Just like your unit of learning when you carefully consider your outcomes and the rationale behind why you chose them in the first place, a key learning will help you identify the skills, knowledge, values and understanding students will acquire as a result of their learning.
This is the high level overview of what will later be broken down to Learning Intentions. In a unit of learning these can be summarised into a Key Learning.
So in Business Studies if we had an outcome "Prepare and analyse a budget, determine the financial position, recommend appropriate action and present the analysis in tabular and graphic formats" and we used this in a unit for first year.
The key learning could be what is a budget; using excel to construct a budget; self-awareness and managing money; communicating.
If we look at the action verbs here which are prepare, analyse, present and remember we are using this outcome in a unit for first year. So if we look at our key learning's we plan to equip our students with the knowledge of what a budget is, how to create one and how it may be used to manage their own finances.
They will have not acquired the skills or knowledge to be able to sufficiently analyse a budget and recommend actions. So we might use this outcome again in another unit possibly later in first year or as they mature in second, third year when they will have the prior knowledge and skills to successfully analyse a budget.
A key learning is a way to capture the skills, knowledge, values and understanding a student will acquire for a particular outcome in a unit of learning. It is useful in validating your thinking, rationale and purpose of using an outcome and remember; students will not have completed each outcome until the end of the Junior Cycle three years.