“Learning outcomes for a class are like thesis statements and research questions/hypotheses that guide any paper you write. Any decision you make about your research project/paper should be in service of those hypotheses/research questions or thesis statements. That’s the same principle behind designing your course. What you have decided to do in your course should be helping students work towards meeting the course’s learning outcomes." - Dr. Heather Fedesco, CC Mellon Pedagogy Researcher, 2016-2018
Learning Outcomes are more specific than curricular goals and address what the student will know or be able to do, as demonstrated by assessment measures/demonstrations of learning. Learning outcomes are always demonstrable (and thus observable) and, where appropriate, measurable.
Faculty members benefit from the use of learning outcomes because learning outcomes:
- identify what is most important to teach;
- bring the faculty together to discuss standards and expectations;
- clarify the connections between courses and the overall coherence of the program, as well as the link between student success in the program and in students’ later pursuits; and
- provide demonstrable evidence of good teaching, documenting student learning success.
Students benefit from the use of learning outcomes because learning outcomes:
- make it clear to students what they are to know and be able to do in your course or program;
- help students prioritize the most important aspects of the course or program and thus focus their time and energy appropriately;
- allow them to more accurately understand their academic strengths and weaknesses in order to improve on areas of weakness;
- enable them to develop clarifying questions to increase the likelihood that they will develop the desired knowledge and skills; and
- support them in their ability to draw connections between the multitude of details that they will encounter in a course/program and the substantive ideas underlying those details.
Including course learning outcomes on your syllabus and program learning outcomes in your majors and minors information is especially helpful to students. Sharing learning outcomes directly with students keeps them from having to guess what your intents and priorities are and can be especially helpful for students from less well-resourced high schools or high schools that may not have prepared them ideally for Colorado College.
If you need to brainstorm learning outcomes for your course, department, or program, we've provided some prompts to help.
We've provided some ideas and materials to help you write meaningful and demonstrable learning outcomes, and to help you evaluate the outcomes you have written.
Bloom's Revised Taxonomy is a useful model for describing learning at different cognitive levels and can help you write learning outcomes suitable to each level.