Formulating a Learning Outcome

In order to figure out what a learning outcome for a course or assignment might be, start by asking yourself: “What kind of measurable and observable knowledge, skills, abilities, or attitudes should students be competent in by the end of this experience?” AND “Through what means will they achieve those outcomes?”

Your learning outcomes should answer those two questions.

The key to writing a strong learning outcome is using verbs that indicate higher order thinking skills. Here are a few examples:

Derive, Design, Formulate, Frame, Predict, Interpret, Evaluate, Demonstrate, Analyze, Synthsize, Create, Identify, Compare, Explain

Less Effective Example of a Learning Outcome:

“Students will learn the art of critical thinking.”

A Better Example of the Same Thing:

“Students will be able to think critically by effectively analyzing assigned readings and evaluating the views of fellow students  both verbally and in writing.”

The better example contains both observable abilities (thinking critically) as well as a description of the means by which they will prove their competency (verbally and in writing). Including the latter is important because that is a product that you can grade, which is the “measurable” part of the learning outcome.

This entry was posted in Course Planning, Creating a Syllabus, Creating Assignments, Evaluating Student Work, Preparing to Teach and tagged , , by Jane Alden Stevens. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jane Alden Stevens

Jane Alden Stevens is a photographer and educator who is Professor Emeritus of Fine Arts at the University of Cincinnati. An active artist, Stevens has exhibited and published her work extensively both in the US and abroad. She is the author of “Tears of Stone: World War I Remembered” (2004). In the course of her teaching career, Stevens taught courses in film, photography, and professional practices for fine artists. Her interest in teaching practices was deepened when she started teaching the "Graduate Teaching Workshop", a required graduate level course for fine artists and art historians that prepares them to teach the courses they will later be assigned. She was also involved in the Preparing Future Faculty program at the University of Cincinnati, which prepares masters and doctoral students across all programs for teaching at the university level. She has conducted pedagogy workshops for a variety of universities, as well as participated in academic practicum panels at educational conferences. The recipient of numerous teaching awards, Stevens was honored with the all-university Cohen Award for Excellence in University Teaching at the University of Cincinnati in 2002 and Professor of the Year honors in her college in 2011.

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