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Writing Student Learning Outcomes

Student learning outcomes are the ways that we can tell whether students are reaching the goals that we want them to achieve. These skills are gained not only through "general education" courses, but they come to fruition as manifested in depth in the disciplines. We encourage you to develop program learning outcomes that will embody, in terms that are relevant to your discipline, Miami Plan competencies and, if relevant, College of Arts and Sciences competencies.

Student learning (developmental) outcomes are specific statements that describe the skills, abilities, knowledge, or values that students should be able to do or demonstrate as a result of the course or program (e.g., "the student identifies and summarizes the problem or question at issue").

Student learning outcomes should be defined by action terms that are:

  • Measurable
  • Observable
  • Performed by the learner

Outcomes that are vague or do not refer to actions performed by the learner cannot be easily assessed. We cannot measure what occurs in a student’s mind (e.g, the student understands concept X”), but we can measure actions taken by a student (e.g., the student defines, explains, and provides examples of concept X).

Bloom’s taxonomy can help you choose verbs which are appropriate to the level of achievement that you desire. View sample listing of Bloom’s Verbs

Common problems with student learning outcomes include:

  • Using vague terms, such as:
    • Appreciate
    • Become aware of
    • Become familiar with
    • Develop
    • Know
    • Learn
    • Understand
  • Describing actions taken by somebody other than the learner (e.g., “the program will help students to appreciate concept X” or “the course will provide students with the opportunity to learn about concept X”)

Sample Student Learning Outcomes

Unclear outcome: Students will understand Erikson’s developmental stages.
Clear outcome: Students will identify and summarize each of Erikson’s stages of development.

Unclear outcome: Students will be familiar with the major sociological perspectives and how they relate to their daily lives.
Clear outcome: Students will describe each of the major sociological perspectives and will illustrate how each perspective relates to events in their daily lives.

Unclear outcome: Students will develop the skills necessary for conducting research in the natural sciences.
Clear outcome: Students will design, conduct, and analyze a research project using appropriate scientific theory and methodology.