The student learning outcomes for an individual course should contribute to those for the department, its majors, and/or non-majors. (Student learning outcomes for non-majors might be primarily based in individual courses.)

Faculty members should think about and articulate student learning outcomes at the course level. They should in clear language identify what the student will know or be able to do after successfully completing the course. The focus of the student learning outcomes should not be on what concepts the course will cover, but what the student will learn.

The following is excerpted from Suskie, L. (2009). Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide (2nd ed.). Hoboken : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. It was shared with department chairs in divisional meetings in Fall 2011, and with faculty in departmental meetings in 2012.

Learning outcomes should be based on what is IMPORTANT. They may cover:

  • Knowledge and conceptual understanding
  • Thinking and other skills
    • Applying knowledge
    • Analysis
    • Evaluation, problem solving, and decision making
    • Synthesis and creativity
    • Critical thinking
    • Information literacy
    • Other (e.g. performance, interpersonal)
  • Attitudes, values, dispositions, and habits of mind
    • Metacognition – learning about one’s own learning (style, strategies)
    • Productive dispositions, habits of mind (organization, independence, curiosity) 

Good learning goal statements:

  • Focus on the end (what the student will be able to do), not the means (what is taught).
  • Clarify fuzzy terms.
  • Are neither too broad nor too specific. Use concrete action words when possible

The more clearly your student learning outcomes are written, the better the framework they provide for curricular planning and course design, and the more straightforward it will be when you focus on the assessment of them.

Again, the focus of the statements should be not on topics presented, but what you expect the student to gain and be able to do—that is, not on the teaching, but the learning.