Pedagogy Now! Creating Effective Evaluation Techniques

Thanks to everyone who attended our CAA workshop, Creating Effective Evaluation Techniques. We had a great time presenting and got a lot of feedback through all the fabulous questions and comments.
As promised, here is our powerpoint presentation PDF. Please feel free to give us any feedback, to ask us questions via the blog or email, or to ask us to address particular issues in the blog. We are also happy to come to your school to do a workshop tailored to your program’s needs. Contact us here:



Learning Outcomes vs. Goals/Objectives

Is there a difference between the terms “learning outcomes”, “goals”, and “objectives”?

Well, yes.

In reality, these terms are often used interchangeably by educators. We all know what we are talking about when we use these terms, whether we are talking about them in terms of an individual class or an entire departmental curriculum. Although the differences between “goals” and “objectives” are relatively slight, there is in fact an important difference between those terms and “learning outcomes”:

A “goal” is the general result or achievement toward which effort is directed. It implies that you might not get there, as these are only the results you intend to get. (ex. “To gain an understanding of basic composition principals.”)

An “objective” is the specific result or achievement toward which effort is directed. Like “goals”, it also implies that you might not get there, as these are only the results you intend to get. (ex. “To  become familiar with the principals of line, shape, form, contrast, and color in artwork.”)

An “outcome”, on the other hand, is something that follows from an action. It states that you will get there and that there will be evidence of learning that took place. It also outlines the means by which students will achieve the learning. (ex. “Students will demonstrate effective use of the compositional principals of artwork, both graphic and aesthetic, in the creation of a studio project and/or a written research project.”

An “outcome” will also make evident what exactly will be assessed. This is why creating a learning outcome can be so helpful when figuring out what to grade and how to grade it. A well-written learning outcome for a course or a project will initiate the seamless “threading” process that leads a teacher from the outcome to the assignment to the critique to the grading of the work produced.

Please note that both “goals” and “objectives” are usually written with the passive voice. “Outcomes”, on the other hand, are written in the active voice. This difference is clear in the above examples. Verbs like “interpret”, “identify”, “present”, “design”, “analyze”, “apply”, “illustrate”, “explain”, “demonstrate”, and “create” are all very useful when creating a learning outcome statement.

For more information on this subject, the University of Connecticut has published an excellent Assessment Primer that covers these differences in depth.

Pedagogy Now! Teaching Teachers to Teach

Attached is a PDF of the 2012 SPE presentation by Janie, Suz and Angela. This is intended to be helpful in jumpstarting ideas surrounding the topics. It is, of course, missing our fabulous presenter skills! Please note that movies are inactive and not all the links translated as live in this PDF, however there should be enough info to point you in the right direction for further research.

What is a Course Description?

A course description provides a general overview of course content and fills in some of the blanks that learning outcomes don’t address.

It is generally expressed in a narrative way, and, while it may contain some of the same information as the learning outcomes for the course, it contains far more detail about content.  Here is an example of the learning outcomes for an Intermediate Drawing class:

• Students will be able to evaluate and draw objects using correct proportions, perspective and lighting (value contrast) in a series of drawings.

• Students will demonstrate their ability to conduct visual analysis of drawings (in terms of form, color, line, etc.) through oral and written exercises.

• Students will demonstrate in their drawings an ability to use the medium to intentionally express complex ideas.

Contrast that with the following course description for this course:

“The purpose of this course is to enhance the student’s understanding of two-dimensional form and how to communicate with the visual elements of drawing. It builds upon the fundamental visual principals learned in foundations classes, and furthers the student’s ability to use drawing as a means of ideation. Students will be able to evaluate an object and draw it correctly; analyze their drawings and use them in the ideation process; and develop a consistent visual form language for drawing.”

What is a Syllabus?

A syllabus is a document that summarizes and outlines the most important information about the a course. It sets the contract between teacher and student for the duration of the course and, as such, should be adhered to.

If, however, you find that you need to change something important (like a project due date) in the middle of a semester, make sure that you announce it verbally to your class AND send it to them in writing either via e-mail or as an online announcement via Blackboard or similar site where your course information resides.

Examples of Strong and Weak Learning Outcomes

Less Effective:

Students will learn the methods of visual analysis of artwork (in terms of form, color, line, etc.)


Students will demonstrate their ability to conduct visual analysis (in terms of form, color, line, etc.) through oral and written exercises.


Less Effective:

Students will gain a greater understanding of the human body through observation and modeling three-dimensional form in space.


Students will demonstrate a greater understanding of the human body by observing and creating three-dimensional figurative forms.


Less Effective:

Students will learn to draw in perspective, use correct proportions, and how to use value and contrast.


Students will evaluate and draw objects using correct proportion, perspective, and lighting (value/contrast).


Less Effective:

Students will learn the principles of good composition.


Students will create effective compositions in their paintings utilizing design (or compositional) principles such as line, shape, form, hue, and perspective.


 Less Effective:

Students will gain a facility in handling the equipment, materials & processes of DSLR photography.


Students will demonstrate a facility with digital SLR cameras and printing processes through the production of a portfolio of photographic prints.

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.