Writing Course Outcomes
Definitions of terms: somewhat dependant on the source, but generally:
Goals = Represent overall mission of the program, school, department, course, etc.
Objectives = Broader perspective on what generally students should know, value or do.
Outcomes = What students should demonstrate/represent relative to objective.
A learning outcome is a brief, clear statement about what you expect students to demonstrate (in terms of knowledge, behavior, or values) due to their participation in a given learning activity.
1. Can be understood by students, faculty, and individuals outside of the discipline.
2. Are related to course, program and college goals.
3. Are specific enough to be evaluated (i.e., each examines something discrete).
4. Are enough in number/scope to cover the entire program/course.
5. (Program) Reflect the unique strengths/ character of the program.
Learning outcomes specify both an observable behavior and the object of that behavior.
Students will be able to write a research paper.
In addition, the criterion could also be specified:
Students will be able to write a research paper in the appropriate scientific style.
Optionally, the condition under which the behavior occurs can be specified:
At the end of their field research,
students will be able to write a research paper in the
appropriate scientific style.
Note that the verb you choose will help you focus on what you assess. For example:
Students will be able to do research.
The verb do is vague. Do you mean identify an appropriate research question, review the literature, establish hypotheses, use research technology, collect data, analyze data, interpret results, draw conclusions, recommend further research, or all of those? Each of the verbs in those statements is appropriately specific.
More examples. The more specific example is easier to assess than the broad example:
Students will demonstrate knowledge of the history, literature and function of the theatre, including works from various periods and cultures.
Students will be able to explain the theoretical bases of various dramatic
illustrate them with examples from plays of different eras.
Even more specific, specifying the conditions:
During the senior
dramatic literature course, the students will be able to explain the
theoretical bases of various dramatic genres and illustrate them with examples from
plays of different eras.
The student will be able to discuss philosophical questions.
The student is able to develop relevant examples and to express
the significance of philosophical questions.
Students will be able to think in an interdisciplinary manner.
Asked to solve a
problem in the student’s field, the student will be able to draw
from theories, principles, and/or knowledge from other disciplines to help solve the
Each student will be able to function as a team member.
Each student will
reflect upon his or her contributions to a team effort, ability to
accept other team members as resources, and willingness to accept compromises
if required to achieve a team goal.
Students will understand how to use technology effectively.
Each student will be
able to use word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and
presentation graphics in preparing their final research project and report.
Summary of assessable learning outcomes:
1. They use verbs that indicate how the student work can be observed.
2. They focus on what the student should do, not what the instructor teaches.
3. They reflect what students should be able to do after a course ends, not
they do during the course.
4. They usually can be assessed in more than one way.
5. They can be understood by someone outside the discipline.
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives offers verbs many have found useful as they write learning objectives.
Knowledge Comprehension Application
define annotate apply
describe explain demonstrate
recall give examples illustrate
state predict solve
list infer manipulate
summarize interpret interview
identify generalize construct
point to calculate draw
match convert perform
Analysis Synthesis Evaluation
subdivide write evaluate
compare create assess
contrast compose critique
identify formulate prioritize
infer outline defend
distinguish plan judge
diagram conceive recommend
illustrate hypothesize defend
categorize predict select
Sample affective learning verbs:
Volunteer, support, question, praise, join, defend, challenge, attempt
Sample psychomotor learning verbs:
Dance, sing, draw,
bend, operate, reach, relax, shorten, lift, throw, hit
Page updated April 19, - 2006 Geoff Mathay