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.
When writing SLOs:
- Focus on what the student can do. Don't address what was taught or presented, but address the observable outcome you expect to see in the student.
- Use active verbs. Active verbs are easier to measure. For instance, if you want the students to understand how to correctly use a microscope - using the word understand is not measurable. Can you measure understanding? Instead try to imagine the outcome - Students will focus and display an image on the microscope. For this I can both develop criteria and measure ability.
- Include an assessable expectation. It helps if you have clearly defined expectations concerning the criteria related to that outcome.
- Share the outcomes with faculty from other disciplines and within your own discipline. This helps focus the meaning of the statements. For instance in the above criteria the faculty might ask for clarification of "appropriate magnification."
- Share the outcomes with your students. Students need to clearly understand what is expected, they are unfamiliar with the discipline specific language. This helps focus the clarity of the statements.
- Modify as you learn from experience. Leave the word "DRAFT" at the top of your SLOs to remind yourself and communicate to others that you are actively improving them.
- Learning outcomes are clear and measurable statements that define what a student is able to DO at the completion of a course or program.
- Blooms Taxonomy
Steps in Writing SLO's
- As the expert in this discipline and course, begin by thinking about the 5-7 most important things a student should leave your class being able to DO. 5-7 may not seem like enough, you may have 20-50 objectives for a course - but these represent the 5-7 things you will assess - most people would not want to assess and make public 20-50 different objectives.
- Spend 15 minutes brainstorming, write down words that express knowledge, skills, or values that integrate the most important aspects of your class.
BRAINSTORM: below briefly list words or descriptions of attitudes, skills, or knowledge that you would like your students to know or do as a result of this course or student services program.
- Attitudes or values developed as a result of this course
- Skills or performance ability as a result of this course
- Knowledge and concepts they will have as a result of this course
- Use active verbs and the domain charts to craft sentences that are clear and assessable (measurable).
- Use the checklist to compare your SLOs to some criteria.
- Share these draft SLOs with other faculty to sharpen the focus.
- Compare the SLO drafts with:
- Course outlines
- Core concepts articulated by professional organizations
- External expectations such as board requirements or standards
- Articulation and prerequisite agreements
- The list of SCANS skills l - http://www.academicinnovations.com/report.html#read