Writing Student Learning Outcomes
Many institutions of higher education, including Humboldt State University, are now entering the “age of evidence”. This involves evaluating institutional effectiveness by systematically measuring, documenting, and improving what students actually learn throughout their academic career. Defining your courses’ Learning Outcomes is a primary step in the evaluation process.
But where to begin?
Learning outcomes are the overarching statements of what students will achieve or be able to do as a result of the course. Blooms Taxonomy suggests that cognitive competency in a field begins with knowledge level learning, and advances up the taxonomy to comprehension, application, and then on to the higher order skills involved in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. (1)
In order to help you express the distinct performance expectations of your students, you should write your learning outcomes using verbs similar to those found in the following table. (3)
|Achieving this Cognitive Competency…||Means your students can do one or more of the following…|
|Knowledge:||arrange, define, duplicate, know, label, list, match, memorize, name, order, quote, recognize, recall, repeat, reproduce, restate, retain|
|Comprehension:||characterize, classify, complete, depict, describe, discuss, establish, explain, express, identify, illustrate, locate, recognize, report, relate, review, sort, translate|
|Application:||administer, apply, calculate, choose, compute, conduct, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, implement, interpret, operate, perform, practice, prescribe, role playing, sketch, solve|
|Analysis:||analyze, appraise, categorize, compare, contrast, critique, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, explore, inventory, investigate, question, research, test|
|Synthesis:||combine, compose, consolidate, construct, create, design, formulate, hypothesize, integrate, merge, organize, plan, propose, synthesize, systematize, theorize, unite, write|
|Evaluation:||appraise, argue, assess, critique, defend, envision, estimate, evaluate, examine, grade, inspect, judge, justify, rank, rate, review, value|
A couple examples.
Here are some examples of Learning Outcomes using verbs categorized by Bloom’s Taxonomy (3)
First Order Learning Outcome (knowledge)
- Given several types of plant leaves, the student will be able to define at least three categories for classifying them.
Second Order Learning Outcome (comprehension)
- Given several examples of each, the student will be able to classify materials according to their physical properties as gas, liquid, or solid.
Third Order Learning Outcome (application)
- The student will be able to demonstrate the steps in facilitating an interest-based mediation.
Fourth Order Learning Outcome (analysis)
- The student will be able to analyze the speech text using the five-part rhetorical framework.
Fifth Order Learning Outcome (synthesis)
- The student will be able to construct a model of a carbon atom.
Sixth Order Learning Outcome (evaluation)
- The student will be able to provide a Marxist critique of consumer culture.
Putting it into practice.
Now that you have the lingo, you begin the task of aligning your instructional activities and appropriate assessment measures with your intended Learning Outcomes.
More to come.
Watch the University Announcements for our related teaching tip on “Embedding Assessment”.
1. How to Develop a Clear Goal Statement for a Course http://www.acu.edu/academics/adamscenter/documents/course_goal.htm#shoppinglistofverbsforbloomtaxonomy
2. Shopping List of Verbs for Bloom’s Taxonomy, http://www.acu.edu/academics/adamscenter/documents/course_goal.htm#shoppinglistofverbsforbloomtaxonomy (.pdf)
3. Examples of Behavioral Verbs and Student Activities, http://www.acu.edu/academics/adamscenter/documents/course_goal.htm#shoppinglistofverbsforbloomtaxonomy