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Learning Outcomes

Quick Facts: Learning outcomes are statements describing what students should be able to demonstrate, know (knowledge), think (attitudes, values), or do (skill) by the end of the program. The recommendation is to use four or five outcomes per program.

Keep the following questions in mind when designing outcomes:

  • What are the expectations for student learning success in the program?
  • Do your learning outcomes reflect a specific level of cognition, affect or behavior? Focus on one at a time (avoid grouping outcomes in one statement).
  • Are different types of outcomes (especially different cognitive levels) represented?
  • Are you using one type of outcome for each statement?
  • Are the learning outcomes using verbs to describe what students will do?
  • Are the outcomes measurable?
  • Are learning outcomes present repeatedly in the curriculum?
Bloom comp pdf

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Benjamin Bloom and a team of researchers (1956) described student learning in broad categories called “domains”–cognitive (thinking), affective (valuing), and psychomotor (doing).

The cognitive domain of learning has been revised by Anderson and Krathwohl to fit more easily into our contemporary desire to measure student learning, with a focus on the verb, the action of the student.

Statements for your program or course can be worded using the following template:

By the completion of the program, students will ____________ (fill in the verb, e.g., “be able to analyze something” or “do something,” or “demonstrate appreciation/value of…”, etc.).

Some faculty have started drawing attention to these course outcomes through a “graphic syllabus” (see this Chronicle Profhacker blog for examples).

While we tend to focus on cognitive outcomes (remembering-creating), we can add outcomes addressing values and attitudes; these we might need to assess differently, even informally.

Resources– Writing learning outcomes

  • See the TennTLC handout on verbs to use in writing outcomes: Cognitive Verbs for Student Learning Outcome Statements.
  • Declan Kennedy, D., Hyland, A., & Ryan, N. (2006). Writing measurable learning outcomes. Dublin, Ireland: Dublin City University. Available from http://sss.dcu.ie/afi/docs/bologna/writing_and_using_learning_outcomes.pdf.
    An excellent resource for those seeking a comprehensive view on the topic of learning outcomes.
  • Clark, D. R. (2005). Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning. (5 July 2005).  Retrieved on 31 January 2013 from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/bloom.html.
    A page describing Bloom’s taxonomy.
  • Maki, P. L. (2010). Making claims about student learning within contexts for learning. Assessing for Learning. Building a sustainable commitment across the institution (pp. 87-105). Sterling, VA: Stylus.
    Provides  learning outcomes definitions, guidelines for crafting learning outcomes, worksheets for developing measurable outcomes as well as case study examples at undergraduate and graduate levels.
  • The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment http://www.learningoutcomeassessment.org/TFcomponents.htm (click on Student Learning Outcomes).

Resources– Examples of program learning outcomes

  • Expected Learning Outcomes. Evidence and Assessment. (2012). BYU Center for Teaching and Learning.  Retrieved 11/9/12, from https://learningoutcomes.byu.edu
    BYU’s learning outcome assessment site, searchable by program of study provides examples of program assessment plans in a variety of disciplines.
  • Providing evidence of student learning: A transparency framework. National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. (2013). Retrieved 24 January 2013, from http://www.learningoutcomeassessment.org/TFComponentSLOS.htm
    Provides short descriptions of good practices in learning outcome assessment and links to websites of universities with successful assessment plans.

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