Developing Learning Outcomes

Well-constructed learning outcomes are an essential component of course design. Outcomes that emphasize the development of students’ abilities, attributes, and knowledge will give meaning and purpose to what students do in your course.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where –” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “– so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” ~ From Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Also see http://learningoutcomes.byu.edu/. 

What are learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes refer to the skills, knowledge, and attributes students should have upon completion of a particular course or program of study.

How are learning outcomes different from learning objectives?

Learning objectives primarily specify topics to be covered and tend to treat course material as the end. Learning outcomes focus on students’ intellectual growth and skill development with course material as the means.

How will learning outcomes help me?

Learning outcomes are one way of articulating the learning goals you would like students to achieve. Articulating these goals helps you plan the assessments you will need to determine if the goals have been met. This in turn, will help you plan the activities, the amount of practice, and the materials students will need to reach them. Good learning outcomes help you focus your teaching and also help direct and motivate students.

How will learning outcomes help my students?

Learning outcomes provide students with guidance for how to direct their learning as well as the language to describe what they are learning. They will help your students know where a course is going. Outcomes can also help students evaluate their progress toward reaching their goals.

How do I create good learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes should be specific and measurable. Consider using action verbs that specifically demonstrate the abilities the students should achieve as a result of your course or program. If you create specific outcomes, it will be easier to measure how well those outcomes have been met. In addition, you will be able to more carefully map the direction your program or course is going. 

General format for writing outcomesProgram graduates will be able to [action verb] + [something].

Learning Outcomes Examples

  • Example 1: A graduate of this program will be able to effectively evaluate research designs, methods, and conclusions.
  • Example 2: Graduates of this program will be able to assess their own strengths, weaknesses, and omissions and be able to adjust future performance in light of their self-assessments.
  • Example 3: Graduates of this program will be able to effectively communicate both formally and informally through speaking, writing, and listening.
  • Example 4: A graduate of this program will be able to collaborate in designing and implementing problem-solving processes.

     

By reviewing the published outcomes for the program your course is a part of, you can better align course level outcomes to contribute to department and college goals. See http://learningoutcomes.byu.edu for the expected learning outcomes for each major at BYU.

For more information please contact Richard Swan, Associate Director