Writing and Evaluating Student Learning Outcomes

A learning outcome has three components:

  • A phrase or sentence beginning “students can” or “students will be able to.”
  • A verb that captures the action the student will be able to take that demonstrates the knowledge or competency in question. 
  • A concluding phrase that elaborates on the verb (e.g., explain how socialization works in everyday life, analyze DNA using electrophoresis, etc.)

Here is template version of the three components above:

“Students will be able to <> <>”

Strong versus Weak Learning Outcomes

Weak Learning Outcomes       

Strong Learning Outcomes         

Outcome verbs are vague (e.g., understand,
appreciate, comprehend, demonstrate an
understanding of) and don’t really get at the
intended outcome (how do students
demonstrate appreciation?)

Outcome verbs are clear, specific, and demonstrable (e.g., create, calculate,
explain, summarize) andmake it crystal-clear
what students should be able to do at the end of the major or minor

Multiple verbs per learning outcome

One verb per learning outcome

Wordy, packing in multiple ideas and perhaps
including assessment demonstrations

Brief and to the point – bullet-point length is fine

Not easy to observe/measure

Readily observable/measureable