Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

First and most important, Who Are Your Learners?

What program, year, special characteristics are worth noting? Are your students primarily on-campus undergraduates, mature working professionals, majors within your program or a varied cross-section? How many students do you expect will be in your class? By the end of the course, what do you want them to

  • Know
  • Be Able to Do
  • Value

How Do your Expectations fit

  • Specifically Within your program
  • What prerequisite knowledge should your learners have before they start this course?
  • Within the Degree Level Expectations

Learning outcomes should begin with verbs beyond “know” or “understand”. Be specific.  What will the student need to demonstrate in order to be successful in the course? Student success with outcomes should be measurable by the course assessments. 

Bloom's Taxonomy

When designing a course, a class, or an assignment we can align the level of learning(s) we desire for our students with different course activities, assignments, etc. For example, if we want our learners to be able to apply knowledge we can design classroom activities and assignments that allow learners to see, hear, and experience the use of knowledge. We might demonstrate how a particular model is applied to a particular problem and then provide students the chance to practice this, and then give students an assignment to demonstrate their understanding.   An applied learning outcome might state:  students will be compare two websites using the principles of Universal Instructional Design.

Using Bloom’s levels of learning via action verbs in our learning objectives makes explicit our expectations and ways to measure student achievement in relation to our course goals.

Knowledge. A student is able to name, recall, recognize or label particular terms, content, theories, or principles.

Comprehension.  Learners are change information into different forms, they are able to discuss, classify, summarize, explain, generalize or distinguish between elements of knowledge. 

Application.  At this level, learners are able to problem solve using acquired knowledge; for example they will be able to demonstrate, relate, practice, interpret, manipulate, translate and use knowledge.

Analysis.  When we require our learners to understand how the elements of a model work together, organizing principles or the relationships between concepts, systems, or ideas typically then our learners will:  examine, experiment, compare, relate, test, or differentiate knowledge.

Synthesis.  When knowledge is synthesized our learners will usually create something in a new and novel way or integrate information, they might:  design, arrange, college, produce, perform or assemble knowledge.

Evaluation.  Learning at an evaluation level usually involves students judging the quality of something, quality might be determined by: a set of standards, value, or adequacy.  Students, therefore, may estimate, compare, rate, interpret, criticize, conclude, or assess.

See also: A Guide to Developing and Assessing Learning Outcomes at the University of Guelph [pdf]