Recommendation 1.1: Course Outcomes
Clearly state course learning outcomes explaining what students will know or be able to do at the end of the course; highlight these outcomes throughout.
Synopsis from Self-Review
Craft and communicate clear learning outcomes that make transparent what students will be able to do at the end of your course. These moves lay the foundation for students’ learning in the course.
How to Put Into Practice
Students benefit from the sense of purpose that comes from regular, explicit reference to course learning outcomes and how the elements of the course fit together as a whole. Reflecting on the clarity and substance of your course learning outcomes is therefore an important first step.
Crafting and Reflecting on Course Learning Outcomes
Reflecting on course learning outcomes is often a recursive process—meaning you might find opportunities to change or tweak the language of outcomes to better align what the course asks students to do, or change what you ask students to do to align with the stated course outcomes. Consider manageable changes you could make to align course outcomes and course elements (e.g., materials, assignments, assessments, grading criteria, discussions).
Use best practices for writing learning outcomes to convey what type of learning is most crucial.
- Begin with an action verb. (That is, avoid general terms like “know, understand, learn, appreciate.” Use other verbs which are observable and/or measurable: e.g. if a student can explain a concept, that demonstrates understanding.)
- Follow with a statement of the behavior or knowledge desired.
- Keep it short (one substantive sentence per outcome)
Note that a smaller number of well-written outcomes communicate the purpose of a course better than a larger number. The number of outcomes really depends on what students need to learn for the entire course. While there are many things it would be nice to know, always ask yourself:
- What do they need to know or do?
- Why is what they need to know worth learning?
- What are the things that you really want students to learn and be able to apply?
- How does this objective align with the course design as a whole? Clear outcomes for learning interactions allow you to select materials, design activities, and offer assessments that align to their outcomes for the section, unit, or entire course.
Communicating Course Learning Outcomes
- Establish a rhythm for communicating key learning outcomes (e.g., a weekly Canvas Announcement; an introduction page for each Canvas Module; a Unit Introduction Video). Outline how course materials, activities, and assessments will guide students to achieve these outcomes.
- Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Repetition helps students take in key messages, even if they may feel redundant to you.
- There are several respected taxonomies that are excellent resources to help draft learning outcomes Read a summary of Learning Objective Taxonomies that includes verbs and examples from Bloom, Fink, and Wiggins & McTighe.
- Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956) differentiates six levels of learning, ranging from remembering factual knowledge, through application and synthesis, to creation. Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs. These pages from the National Institute for Learning Outcome Assessment provide action verbs for different dimensions of Bloom’s taxonomy organized in multiple ways.
- Fink’s Taxonomy of Significant Learning Outcomes (2003) contains six dimensions, adding more humanistic, social and intra/interpersonal aspects. Example Action Verbs for Each Dimension of Learning
- Use an online tool to practice writing clear, measurable Learning Objectives based on Bloom’s Taxonomy. Learning Objectives Builder
- This planning guide offers a framework for creating a detailed week-by-week plan for a course that can help you align learning outcomes, materials, and activities, including assessments: Create your own copy of the planning guide.
What is this?
Course learning outcomes communicate what learners should be able to do at the end of a course.
Why is this important?
Students are more motivated and intentional in their learning when they know the purpose of what you are asking them to do. Bringing this clarity of purpose to the course as a whole and threading it through individual elements helps channel students’ intellectual efforts towards what is most critical.
Where is this?
Course learning outcomes must be prominent in the syllabus. The campus syllabus template includes a place to list course learning outcomes. They also can be reiterated in the course overview and welcome letters.
Success Factor 1: Course Planning
The amount of time a student spends learning reflects the university’s guidelines for credit hours (including lectures, discussion, reading, assignments, studying, etc.). The definition of a credit hour is based on federal rules and ensures students receive the enriching and engaging education they deserve without demanding more effort than is required.