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Learning Outcomes

Writing Learning Outcomes

Structure of a Learning Outcome Statement:

  1. An action word that identifies the performance to be demonstrated
  2. A learning statement that specifies what learning will be demonstrated in the performance
  3. A broad statement of the criterion or standard for acceptable performance 

Characteristics of Good Learning Outcomes:

  • Specify the level, criterion, or standard for the knowledge, skill, ability, or disposition that the learner must demonstrate
  • Include conditions under which they should be able to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, abilities, or dispositions
  • Contain active verbs using Bloom's taxonomy
  • Be measurable / assessable 
  • Written in a way that does not join elements in an outcome statement that cannot be assessed by a single method 
    • Example of a poorly written outcome: At the end of the session, students will create a search strategy using Boolean operators and write a correctly formatted MLA citation for a scholarly article. 

"Learning objectives" and "learning outcomes" are often used interchangeably in the literature. In general, "objectives" are intended results or consequences of instruction, curricula, programs, or activities, while "outcomes" are achieved results or consequences of what was learned, i.e. evidence that learning took place. Objectives are often focused on teaching intentions and typically indicate the subject content that the teacher intends to cover. Learning outcomes, on the other hand, are more student-centered and describe the actions the learner should be able to take as a result of a learning experience. 

Learning Objective: This workshop will cover background and method for writing learning objectives.

Learning Outcome: At the end of this session, participants will be able to construct a learning outcome for an undergraduate course

University of Connecticut (2013). Assessment primer: Goals, objectives, and outcomes. 
  • Are the outcomes specific?
  • Are the outcomes simply stated?
  • Are the outcomes written using action verbs to specify definite, observable behavior? 
    • Do they use vague or unclear language, such as "understand" or "comprehend"?
  • Do the outcomes clearly describe and define the expected abilities, knowledge, and values of learners?
  • Are learners at the center of the outcome, or does it focus on the teacher behaviors?
  • Does the language used describe a learning outcome, not a process?
  • Is it possible to collect accurate and measurable data for each outcome?
    • If not, can it be re-written? 
  • Is it possible to use a single method to measure each outcome? 
  • Can the outcomes be used to identify areas for improvement?
  • Are the outcomes aligned with the mission, vision, values and goals of the institution? program? course?
  • Taken together, would the indicators associated with the outcomes accurately reflect the key results of the program?