Creating learning outcomes is the process of identifying the key concepts or skills that students are expected to learn during specific courses. It is important to communicate the expected learning outcomes to keep students focused on the purpose behind their coursework.
Expected learning outcome statements describe:
Learning outcomes have three major characteristics:
One of the first steps in identifying the expected learning outcomes for a course is identifying the purpose of teaching in the course. By clarifying the purpose of the course, faculty can help discover the main topics or themes related to students’ learning. These themes help to outline the expected learning outcomes for the course.
Finding the course purpose involves the following questions:
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.
Examples of good action words to include in expected learning outcome statements:
Compile, identify, create, plan, revise, analyze, design, select, utilize, apply, demonstrate, prepare, use, compute, discuss, explain, predict, assess, compare, rate, critique, outline, or evaluate.
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 (American Association of Law Libraries, 2005). It is best to avoid using these terms when creating expected learning outcome statements.
Systematically gathering, analyzing, and interpreting evidence through formal assessment activities is necessary to determine how well the students’ learning matches faculty expectations for what students will learn. Such assessments activities include quantitative assessment such as exams or papers as well as qualitative assessment activities such as class discussions or problem-solving exercises. These expectations should coincide with the stated expected learning outcomes for the course.