Deborah Paulsen, M.F.A.
Stephen Brown, Ph.D
What are Student Learning Outcomes?
Learning outcomes are statements of what is expected that a student will be able to do as a result of a learning activity. The keyword is do and the key need in drafting learning outcomes is to use active verbs. Outcomes are usually expressed as knowledge, skills, or attitudes.
- Learning outcomes help instructors more precisely to tell students what is expected of them. By doing this, educationalists assert that they:
- help students learn more effectively. They know where they stand and the curriculum is made more open to them.
- Make it clear what students can hope to gain from following a particular course or lecture.
- Help instructors to design their materials more effectively by acting as a template for them.
- Help instructors select the appropriate teaching strategy, for example lecture, seminar, student self-paced, or laboratory class. It obviously makes sense to match the intended outcome to the teaching strategy.
- Help instructors more precisely to tell their colleagues what a particular activity is designed to achieve.
- Assist in setting examinations based on the materials delivered.
- Ensure that appropriate assessment strategies are employed.
Three types of Learning Outcomes: Course, Program, and Institutional
Course Learning Outcomes:
The starting point for designing a course of study is determining what its intended outcomes are to be. Why should students take this class? What will they gain from it? Answering these questions will lead you to the successive questions of how to assess whether students have “gotten it” and how you can best proceed to organize and present the content so that students are more likely to “get it.”
Every course should have clearly stated goals and objectives. Course goals express in broad terms what you hope to impart as a result of teaching this topic with your approach. Course objectives can be written for the whole course and/or for individual units of study…right down to an individual lesson or segment within a lesson.
Program Learning Outcomes:
Faculty members design outcomes for their programs/departments by discussing what they believe is essential to student learning in their disciplines. Usually those discussions are rooted in the skills and knowledge that faculty members teach in their own courses. Once faculty members have agreed on program/departmental outcomes for student learning, they can use those outcomes as guides for articulating new or revised learning outcomes for their own courses.
Institutional Learning Outcomes:
Institutional learning outcomes are designed by the college as a whole, taking into account the role that both instruction and student services play in increasing a student’s success at their institution. When choosing institutional learning outcomes the college needs to consider what skills students should have attained from attending their institution. This may require the institution to interview the community to better formulate appropriate learning outcomes. However, aside from the community, the college can turn to other institutions for guidance, as most have begun to formulate institutional learning outcomes. Remember, it is best to keep the list of learning outcomes manageable with no more than 8 objectives. This will give the college the scope needed to properly ensure accurate success of the student as well as the assessment technique.
Another item to consider when developing institutional learning outcomes is the degree each is addressed or level of mastery expected from a student in a particular class. For instance, while a student is exposed to writing in several courses, there are different degrees of exposure in the different courses (i.e. an English class teaches writing differently than a history class, but both may address the importance of writing).
Learning Outcomes: Lisa Brewster
Defining Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
Student learning outcomes are the specific measurable goals and results that are expected subsequent to a learning experience. These outcomes may involve knowledge (cognitive), skills (behavioral), or attitudes (affective behavior) that display evidence that learning has occurred, at a specified level of competency, as a result of a course or program. Learning outcomes are clear and assessable statements that define what a student is able to DO at the completion of a course or program. Learning outcomes provide a focus and a standard for the classroom or the student services program.
- Objectives represent valuable skills, tools, or content (nuts and bolts) that enable a student to engage a particular subject.
- Objectives focus on content and skills important within the classroom or program: what the staff and faculty will do. Often termed the input in the course.
- Objectives can often be numerous, specific, and detailed. Assessing and reporting on each objective for each student may be impossible.
- SLOs represent overarching products of the course.
- Outcomes express higher level thinking skills that integrate the content and activities and can be observed as a behavior, skill, or discrete useable knowledge upon completing the class.
- An assessable outcome is an end product that can be displayed or observed and evaluated against criteria.
Course Goal – the purpose of the course
Course Objectives – the specific teaching objectives detailing course content and activities.
Course SLO – This is an outcome that describes what a student will do at the end of the course.