Writing Course-Level Student Learning Outcomes

Writing Course-Level
Student Learning Outcomes
APRIL 21, 2011
In Context
This semester we have worked hard to create and
support Program Student Learning Outcomes, and
we have even worked on General Education/Core
Curriculum Student Learning Outcomes.
Now it’s time to move into
Course-Level Student Learning Outcomes.
Expected Learning Outcomes, Defined
An expected learning outcome is a formal statement
of what students are expected to learn in a course.
Expected learning outcome statements refer to
specific knowledge, practical skills, areas of
professional development, attitudes, higher-order
thinking skills, etc., that faculty member expect
students to develop, learn, or master during a course
(Suskie, 2004).
Simply Stated
Simply stated, expected learning outcome statements
What faculty members want students to know at the
end of the course.
What faculty members want students to be able to do
at the end of the course.
Three Major Characteristics
Learning outcomes have three major characteristics:
 They specify an action by the students that is observable.
 They specify an action by the students that is measurable.
 They specify an action that is done by the students
(rather than by the faculty members).
Effectively developed expected learning outcome
statements should possess all three of these
characteristics (Suskie, 2004)
Tips for Developing
Expected Student Learning Outcomes
 Limit the Course-level SLOs to 5-8 statements for
the entire course. (More detailed, specific outcomes
can be developed for individual units or assignments
within the course.)
 Base the Course-level SLOs on the Program SLOs,
which are derived from the Institutional Mission and
Tips for Developing
Expected Student Learning Outcomes
 Focus on knowledge and skills that are central to the
course topic and/or discipline.
 Focus on overarching or general knowledge and/or
skills, rather than on small, trivial details.
 Focus on the learning that results from the course
rather than describing lessons or activities in the
Tips for Developing
Expected Student Learning Outcomes
 Create statements that are student-centered rather
than faculty-centered. (“Upon completion of this
course, students will be able to list the names of the
50 states” rather than “one objective of this course is
to teach the names of the 50 states.”)
 Use active verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy to start the
Student Learning Outcome statements.
Additional Considerations
You might also want to consider the following questions as
you consider your SLOs:
 Is this course required or an elective?
 Is the course required for some and elective for others?
 Does the course have a prerequisite or is it a prereq?
 Is this an introductory course or does it build on others?
 What is the value of taking this course?
 What do I want students to know in 5 years as a result of
taking this course?
Writing Effective Learning Outcome Statements
When stating expected learning outcomes, it is
important to use verbs that describe exactly what the
learners will be able to do upon completion of the
Use your Bloom’s Taxonomy list for help choosing
verbs. Avoid beginning SLOs with vague verbs that
are not measurable, such as know, be aware of,
appreciate, learn, understand, comprehend, and
become familiar with.
Some Weak and Strong Examples
Weak: The students will understand basic human
development theory.
Better: The students will be able to identify and describe
two major theories of human development.
Weak: The students will appreciate music from other
Better: The students will be able to identify the
characteristics of music from other cultures.
Bloom’s Taxonomy, Redux
Remember, Bloom’s Taxonomy identifies verbs for
different levels of thinking skills. Some verbs
indicate basic cognitive skills while others indicate
complex, higher-order or critical thinking skills.
Refer to your Bloom’s Taxonomy handout for ideas
about which verbs to use as you write your SLOs.
Also, refer to the handout entitled, “Anderson and
Krathwohl’s Adaptation of Bloom’s Taxonomy” for
definitions of different levels of thinking skills.
Assessing SLOs
As you create or re-create your classes for next
semester, be sure to keep in mind both the Courselevel Student Learning Outcomes and the Program
Student Learning Outcomes.
You want to be sure to include formal evaluation or
assessment of the SLOs throughout the semester.
Assessing SLOs
Some formal evaluation or assessment techniques:
- Exams
- Quizzes
- Papers/Essays
- Homework
- In-Class Activities
- Graded Class Discussions
Some informal evaluation or assessment techniques:
- Non-Graded Quizzes - Active Learning Techniques
- Polling/Surveying
- Personal Response Journals
Extra credit activities should not be used for assessment.
More Than SLOs
It is important that you realize that your course may
include material that does not necessarily meet any
formal student learning outcome.
In other words, you can include material in your
course, on your tests, in your assignments, and in
your presentation of information that is not covered
by an SLO. You just need to ensure that you present
material that is covered by the SLOs.
Intentional Instruction
As you write or re-write your exams, assignments,
homework, or other activities, be sure to keep the
Student Learning Outcomes in mind.
Create new assignments to produce outcomes as needed.
Revise old assignments to produce outcomes.
Be intentional in delivering material that leads to the
desired outcomes.
What To Do
Today: We will create the SLOs for one course. If more
than one faculty member teaches the course, you should
get together and come up with common SLOs.
Before the Semester Ends: You should create the
SLOs for each of the classes you will be teaching in the
summer or fall.
Before Your Next Teaching Semester: You should
determine how your assignments and exams measure the
Send ‘Em In
Before your next teaching semester:
Send David a PRINT (word-processed) copy of your
Course-Level Student Learning Outcomes. Just have
them put into his campus mailbox.
If more than one person teaches the course, send
only one copy with everyone’s name on it.
Do NOT email copies. Print copies only, please.
Include In Your Syllabus
In your syllabus for summer, fall, and forward,
please include:
The applicable Program Student Learning Outcomes
The Course-Level Student Learning Outcomes
That’s All, Folks!

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