Learning Outcomes Resources for Programs
This page offers tips and strategies for departments and programs to use in crafting effective (and assessable) learning outcomes at the program and/or course levels.
Learning objectives communicate the purpose of instruction and clarifying expectations for performance. Objectives should align with an assessment intended to measure student knowledge, skills, or attitudes resulting from learning.
There are various levels at which objectives can be written. The first step is to draft program level learning objectives. Aim for approximately five comprehensive objects. Course objectives and assessments are written next and should be mapped to program outcomes.
Objective Writing Format
There are a few different formats that can be used to write effective learning objectives. The most basic approach is to simply describe the observable, measurable behaviors that students should be able to demonstrate during an assessment of learning. An example is provided below.
Upon completion of _______, students should be able to:
- recognize the key characteristics of …
- interpret reports for …
- analyze options for …
- collaborate with peers to …
- design an original system for …
When writing objectives, avoid verbs such as know, understand, appreciate, study, learn, or realize as these are difficult to observe and measure. Review the examples below and consider why the second option in each pair is more specific and measurable.
A. “Students will learn to have a deeper appreciation for good communication practices.”
B. “By the end of this program, students will demonstrate professional communication skills during technical presentations and reports.”
A. “Students will know why checks and balances are important.”
B. “During an assessment of Unit 3, students will be able to explain how checks and balances within the three branches of the U.S. government affect each other.”
Bloom's Taxonomy for Cognitive Objectives
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives for the Cognitive Domain describes categories of learning skills ranging from lower-order (remember, understand, apply) to higher-order (analyze, evaluate, create). Verb lists, like the one below, can help instructors select precise and measurable verbs when writing objectives for different levels of student learning.
After you have finished drafting a set of objectives, one final step is to see if your objectives pass the SMART check. The acronym SMART stands for:
|S =||Specific: Is the objective clear, exact, and written in a language students can understand?|
|M =||Measurable: Can the objective be measured in an assessment?|
|A =||Attainable: Is the objective appropriate for the level of student learning?|
|R =||Relevant: Is the objective aligned to assessments and overarching objectives? Does it represent knowledge and skills that are practice, worthwhile, and useful?|
|T =||Time-bound: Is there an explicit time frame in which the objectives can be achieved?|