Part 2: Starting with a Clear Plan

Learning Outcomes: It’s the journey and the destination

Since your learning outcomes describe the “destination” you want your students to reach, it’s important that they be as clear as possible to your students. If they know where they’re going, they’re more likely to follow along the path you’ve made.

Learning outcomes focus on specific knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that you expect your students to learn, develop, or master (Suskie, 2004). They describe what you want students to know and be able to do at the end of the course. Effective learning outcomes

  • describe student actions, not instructor actions or passive states of being
  • describe something that is observable and measurable in the context of the class

By making sure they describe student actions and are observable and measurable, students can see when they have reached their destination.

You often see outcomes written using words like “know” and “understand.” neither of which are directly observable or measurable. On the other hand, if you ask students to “describe”, “identify”, “analyze”, or “evaluate” something, you have something you can observe and grade. If you’re looking for ideas, Bloom’s Taxonomy (pdf, 173k), and Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning (pdf, 361k) are good places to start.

Do the outcome statements in the flashcard activity meet these criteria? Click on each card for the answer.






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