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Articulate learning outcomes

Program and course-level outcomes are statements of intended learning for programs and courses.  As Ken Bain taught the faculty in April 2011, these statements are promises or opportunities that the course or program offers to students.  "What kind of questions [will the course or program] help students answer?  What kind of intellectual, physical, emotional, or social abilities [will a course or program] help them develop?"      

Outcomes and Effectiveness


The things we want our students to know, the skills we intend them to develop, and the kind of men and women we want them to be when they graduate are all outcomes.  Coming to authentic consensus regarding what we most want our students to know, to be able to do, and to become allows us to design our courses and our programs with focus and purpose.  Without that clear sense of what we are trying to achieve, we can't be effective.

Writing Outcome Statements



Learning outcome statements describe knowledge, skill, or dispositions that we intend students to gain or develop as a result of their participation in our courses and programs.  A well-written outcome statement describes desired student behavior rather than teacher actions.  Consequently, "Train students in use of laboratory equipment" is not an appropriate outcome statement but "Students will identify safety concerns in a simulated laboratory environment" is appropriate.

A common mistake is to concentrate too many of the outcomes at one level of learning.  For example, the outcomes for a course might be focused exclusively on knowledge or application.  Please consider a range of levels in your outcomes--knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation, and synthesis.

To write an effective outcome statement, identify a verb that describes the student behavior you are trying to produce. Once you have a verb, some version of this simple pattern will produce an outcome statement:

Students [observable verb] + [something].

For example,

  • Students label specimens.
  • Students restate Geertz' theory of culture
  • Students classify texts by genre.
  • Students calculate total interest for home loans at varied interest rates.
  • Students recommend supplemental readings for a course.
  • Students design a promotional campaign.


      BYU-Idaho Tools

      Learning Outcomes

      Refining Learning Outcomes Statements

      Selecting the Scope of Learning Outcomes

      The Process for Designing Outcomes