Developing Learning Outcomes
Learning outcomes are user-friendly statements that tell students what they will be able to do at the end of a period of time. They are measurable and quite often observable. Learning outcomes are usually discussed within the context of program-wide assessment, but they can be valuable components of any class because of the way they sharpen the focus on student learning.
- state in clear terms what it is that your students should be able to do at the end of a course that they could not do at the beginning.
- focus on student products, artifacts, or performances, rather than on instructional techniques or course content.
- are student-centered rather than instructor-centered.
- explicitly communicate course expectations to your students.
Writing Effective Learning Outcomes
The key to writing effective learning outcomes is the selection of active, measurable verbs—the tasks you want students to do at the end of your class. Words like know, understand, or appreciate are difficult to measure, and they rarely get at the higher order thinking tasks most of us really want to see in our students. Consider, instead, more specific words like these, which progress toward more complex intellectual tasks: By the end of the class, students should be able to ….
Next, consider how you will be able to measure whether students have met those outcomes. What types of activities or assignments will let students provide evidence they can meet these outcomes? Is this something they can demonstrate through a specific essay assignment? Via a poster or other presentation? As part of a course project? Through well-crafted exam questions?
Sample Learning Outcomes
Below are several sample learning outcomes, with each pair showing a version that is difficult to measure, followed by a revision that is easier to measure. Notice the selection of verbs and how students would be more likely to provide clear evidence that they met the objectives.