Skip to main content

Assessment: Course Learning Outcomes

Course Learning Outcomes

Tips for Writing Effective Learning Outcomes

An expected learning outcome is a formal statement of what students are expected to learn in a course. Expected learning outcome statements refer to specific knowledge, practical skills, areas of professional development, attitudes, higher-order thinking skills, etc. that faculty members expect students to develop, learn, or master during a course

Learning outcomes have three major characteristics:


They specify an action by the students that is observable.

They specify an action by the students that is measurable.

They specify an action that is
done by the students.

 

The outcomes should be specific, demonstrable (measurable), and student-centered.   They should include ONE action verb from Bloom’s taxonomy chart.  Course Learning outcomes determine what students should know or be able to do upon completion of the course.  They must be observable and measurable and specify the knowledge, skills and abilities to be gained by the student while navigating the course content and activities.

Well-articulated Course Learning Outcomes can help:

  • Clarify expectations for the learner and the instructor
  • Direct the learner’s and instructor’s attention and efforts
  • Increase a learner’s motivation by knowing what s/he will be able to accomplish
  • Help the learner determine how well prepared s/he is to have learning assessed

Writing SMART Learning Outcomes

A good learning outcome is clearly described, easy to understand, and appropriate given the context (e.g., time allotted for the learning, depth and breadth of the learning experience, how the learning fits into a bigger scheme).

SMART Learning Outcomes

There are some verbs that are unclear in the context of an expected learning outcome statement (e.g., know, be aware of, appreciate, learn, understand, comprehend, become familiar with). These words are often vague, have multiple interpretations, or are simply difficult to observe or measure. As such, it is best to avoid using these terms when creating expected learning outcome statements.

For example, please look at the following learning outcomes statements:

The students will understand basic human development theory.
The students will appreciate music from other cultures.

Both of these learning outcomes are stated in a manner that will make them difficult to assess. Consider the following:

  • How easy will it be to measure understanding or appreciating?
  • How do you observe someone understanding a theory or appreciating other cultures?

These expected learning outcomes are more effectively stated the following way:

The students will be able to describe the major theories of human development.
The students will be able to identify the characteristics of music from other cultures.


Writing Effective Learning Outcome Statements

When stating expected learning outcomes, it is important to use verbs that describe exactly what the learner(s) will be able to do upon completion of the course.

Action Verbs
compile
identify
create
plan
revise
analyze
design
compare
critique
outline
evaluate
predict
apply
demonstrate
prepare
use
compute
discuss
rate
explain
assess
select
utilize
Learning Outcomes Worksheet & Bloom's Taxonomy Wheel Learning Outcomes & Bloom's Taxonomy Wheel
PDF File

Have a question? Email: awg@ccac.edu