Writing a Learning Outcome

Learning outcomes are statements of what students will learn in course. The statements are focused on what students will be able to do, represent, or produce based on the course, and instructors should be able to quantitatively or qualitatively assess them. Using action verbs to describe student activity should result in measurable outcomes (Maki, 2010). Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (published in 1956 and revised in 2001) provides a very good list of verbs to use.

Examples include:

Students

  • will explain how the physical exercise affects stress.
  • will design a lesson plan using backward design.
  • will demonstrate the use of correct grammar and various literary devices in creating an essay.
  • will analyze and respond to arguments about racial discrimination.

How do I write learning outcomes?

First

A frequently used resource is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives because provides a way to express learning outcomes that are active and reflect cognitive skills.

There are five levels (lowest to highest cognitive skills):

  • Knowledge/remembering
  • Comprehension/understanding
  • Application/applying
  • Analysis/analyzing
  • Evaluation/evaluating
  • Synthesis/creating

Bloom’s taxonomy can be used to identify verbs to describe student learning. Examples of learning outcomes verbs for library instruction include:

  • Knowledge/Remembering: define, list, recognize
  • Comprehension/Understanding:characterize, describe, explain, identify, locate, recognize, sort
  • Application/Applying: choose, demonstrate, implement, perform
  • Analysis/Analyzing: analyze, categorize, compare, differentiate
  • Evaluation/Evaluating: assess, critique, evaluate, rank, rate
  • Synthesis/Creating: construct, design, formulate, organize, synthesize

Avoid vague and non-observable verbs when writing learning outcomes. For example, it is difficult to measure whether someone has “become familiar with” a particular tool or “appreciates” a genre of music. Use a more specific verb. If “understanding” is sought, think more closely about what students should to be able to do or produce as a result of their “understanding.”

Next

Once you have identified the intended actions and outcomes, you will want to write a formal learning outcome statement to add to your syllabus. Use S.M.A.R.T. as a guide. Statements should be:

Specific-Outcome is focused on a discreet category of student learning.

Measureable- Quantitative or qualitative data can be collected to measure student learning.

Attainable- Students can reach this outcome, given the opportunities to learn in the course.

Results-Focused- The course outcome is aligned with departmental and General Education outcomes.

Tailored- Outcome is specifically tailored to the course.

Finally

The following statement may get you started:

As a result of participating in (course), students will be able to (action verb) + (defined by explicit and observable terms).

It is recommended that you limit yourself to 3-6 outcomes. Try to focus on the most important goals of your course.

Maki, P.L. (2010). Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution (2nd ed.). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

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