Developing and Refining Learning Outcomes

Faculty Assessment Toolkit

Developing / Refining Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes describe the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students are expected to gain as a result of their learning in a course, program/discipline, or at the institutional level. Learning outcomes typically are expressed using active verbs that align with the level at which students are expected to demonstrate learning.

Outcomes vs. objectives

Generally, learning outcomes encapsulate the high-level learning expectations for students, while objectives are the more granular units of learning, and there may be multiple objectives aligned to a single learning outcome. While there are debates about these terms that complicate the big picture, no matter what terminology we use, we need to set clear learning expectations for students. 

Considerations

A first step in assessment is to review your curriculum and ensure course or program learning outcomes are measurable, observable, or demonstrable in some way. What do you want students to know or be able to do by the end of the course, program, degree? Can you develop formative and/or summative assessments for your outcomes?

  • Learning outcomes are specific to the course or program
  • Learning outcomes describe the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students are expected to gain as a result of participating in a course or program
  • Learning outcomes are measurable/demonstrable and achievable
  • Learning outcomes use action verbs, can be clearly understood by students, and are free of jargon

outcomes formula

Outcomes Checklist

  • Does each outcome start with an action verb?
    • This verb wheel from ASU is based on Bloom's taxonomy of learning domains and is a helpful visual for determining appropriate verbs.
  • Does it describe an outcome of the learning, not a process or lesson?
    • Example: Determine a manageable number of learning outcomes (learning-focused) vs. Write four learning outcomes (process)
  • Are the learning outcomes vague? Have you used verbs such as know and understand? (Use these sparingly or not at all!)
  • Do outcomes reflect the level of learning expected?
  • Are the learning outcomes observable or measurable?
  • Are they written in terms of what the learner does, not what the instructor does?
  • Are there an appropriate number of outcomes given the length of the class and credit load? (Try to keep outcomes to a manageable number.)

Example Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Describe outcomes-based course design
  • Determine a manageable number of learning outcomes
  • Apply action-focused language in the creation or revision of learning outcomes
  • Define the role of learning outcomes in developing assessments

Need Help?

Contact the Coordinator of Student Learning Assessment and Curriculum Development.

Resources

Use these resources to help you write great learning outcomes!