Students Learning Outcomes
Guidelines for Including Learning Outcomes On Course Syllabi
Prepared by the Center for Teaching, Research and Learning
Course syllabi traditionally provide students with an overview of the course, topics that will be covered, a list of readings and assignments and due dates, a description of your grading system and class attendance policies. This handout focuses on ways you might include student learning outcomes on your course syllabus.
How do Course Goals and Student Learning Outcomes Differ?
Course goals are broad, general statements that provide a framework for the course. They can be presented in narrative form as part of the course description or listed separately. Goals help frame your content and approach to learning, but do not specify what you expect students to learn or how you will assess their mastery of course content.
Examples of Course Goals: This course will:
Improve your understanding of _________________________________.
Help you gain an appreciation for multiple, global perspectives within ____.
Help you see the value of _____________________________________.
Explore the relationship between __________ and __________________.
Encourage you to become reflective, critical learners_______________.
Provide opportunities for collaboration, investigation and ______________.
Other terms used to define goals: consider, take into account, become familiar with, examine, take a look at, participate in; these are all “big picture” statements that cannot be measured. Goals can also focus on dispositions: attitudes, perceptions or feelings or make general statements about topics to be addressed.
Student Learning Outcomes focus on what you expect students to learn in the course. These statements are specific and translate your course goals into measurable outcomes. They help you determine how students will demonstrate mastery of the material and skills covered in your course. They can begin with the phrase: “Students will be able to”. Here are some examples:
Define the relationship between _____ and _______________________.
Examine diversity within ____________________________________.
Present alternative theories of_________________________________.
Apply ________________________to ________________________.
Analyze the relationship between ________ ____and ______________.
Compare and contrast the following theories with regard to______________
Critically examine _____________, grounding their own opinion in theories covered in the course…
Other terms that might be used to define learning outcomes: describe, research, identify, categorize, explain, demonstrate, perform, write, evaluate, report, create, discuss, appraise, synthesize, construct, design, present.
Learning outcomes also express the sophistication of your expectations. For example, describing how a process works or defining content related terms may be important in a given course but will be less complex than tasks that require students to analyze, synthesize or demonstrate critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Student Learning Outcomes Connect to Course Assessment and Grading Policies
The more clearly you state your student learning outcomes, the easier it is to tie them to assessment measures: tests, quizzes, research papers, reflections, presentations, internships, group projects, experiments or performances. The chart below illustrates how this might work. I.e. for each student learning outcome, how will your students demonstrate competency? Will it be an exam question, a paper topic, the focus of an individual or group presentation? What will students need to do or write to demonstrate to you that they have mastered a concept or skill? For example:
|Student Learning Outcome||Assessment Measures|
|Students will be able to investigate, critique, evaluate||
||Research paper, exam question, laboratory experiment|
|Students will be able to collaborate, identify multiple perspectives||Group task or project, peer editing, an assignments given at the start of the semester and revised at the end|
|Students will be able to demonstrate, implement, create, apply||Internship, group project, experiment, performance, research paper|
|Students will be able to analyze, synthesize, evaluate||Research paper, exam question, project|
|Students will be able to describe, compare/contrast, critically examine||Research paper, exam question, demonstration, group project, performance|
How Many Student Learning Outcomes do you want to Include?
When deciding how many student learning outcomes to include on your syllabus, you might consider the following:
- What is the most important content for students to learn?
- Which specific skills do you want students to acquire or refine in this course?
- Which dispositions/attitudes do you want to emphasize in this course?
There is no set number of recommended learning outcomes; if you consider at least one or two per course goal you can ensure that you have the information you need to assess student competency and understanding.