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Guidelines to Writing Student Learning Outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes are the knowledge, skills/abilities, and dispositions we want students to be able to demonstrate from their learning experiences, both curricular and co-curricular.

Characteristics of Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Learner-centered 
  2. Cognitively appropriate 
  3. Specific 
  4. Action oriented and measurable

Basic Format of a Student Learning Outcome:

Students will be able to <<action verb>>  <<something>>

  • Example: Students will be able to <<apply research methodologies>> <<to examine issues within the discipline>>
  • Use an action verb that results in an overt behavior that can be observed or measured.

Concrete verbs such as “define,” “apply,” or “analyze” are more helpful for assessment than verbs such as “be exposed to,” “understand,” “know,” “be familiar with.”

Cognitive Learning

Examples of Action Verbs 

Knowledge – to recall or remember facts without necessarily understanding them

articulate, define, indicate, name, order, recognize, relate, recall, reproduce, list, tell, describe, identify, show, label, tabulate, quote

Comprehension – to understand and interpret learned information

classify, describe, discuss, explain, express, interpret, contrast, associate, differentiate, extend, translate, review, suggest, restate

Application – to put ideas and concepts to work solving problems

apply, compute, give examples, investigate, experiment, solve, choose, predict, translate, employ operate, practice, schedule

Analysis – to break information into its components to see interrelationships

analyze, appraise, calculate, categorize, compare, contrast, criticize, differentiate, distinguish, examine, investigate, interpret

Synthesis – to use creativity to compose and design something original

arrange, assemble, collect, compose, construct, create, design, formulate, manage, organize, plan, prepare, propose, set up

Evaluation – to judge the value of information based on established criteria

appreciate, accept, attempt, challenge, defend, dispute, join, judge, praise, question, share, support

Affective Learning

appreciate, accept, attempt, challenge, defend, dispute, join, judge, praise, question, share, support

Adapted from:  Bloom, B.S. (Ed.) (1956) Taxonomy of education objectives:  The classification of educational goals:  Handbook I, cognitive domain.  New York; Toronto: Longmans, Green. 

Consider these examples:

Example 1

  • Poor statement: Students will develop an appreciation of cultural diversity in the workplace.
    • Ask this question:  “Can it be measured?”  The statement above is not measurable because one needs to know how a student will demonstrate what he/she appreciates.   
    • Better statement:  Students will summarize in writing their feelings about cultural diversity in the workplace.

 Example 2

  • Broad statement:  The student will be able think in an interdisciplinary manner.
    • More specific:  Asked to solve a problem in the student’s field, the student will be able to draw from theories, principles, and/or knowledge from other disciplines to help solve the problem. 

  Example 3

  • Broad statement:  Students will understand how to use technology effectively.  
    • More specific:  Each student will be able to use word processing, spreadsheets, databases, and presentation graphics in preparing their final research project and report. 

 Example 4

  • Broad statement:  Students will demonstrate knowledge of the history, literature and function of the theatre, including works from various periods and cultures.  
    • More specific:  Students will be able to explain the theoretical bases of various dramatic genres and illustrate them with examples from plays of different eras.
      • Even more specific, specifying the conditions:  During the senior dramatic literature course, the students will be able to explain the theoretical bases of various dramatic genres and illustrate them with examples from plays of different eras. 


Additional Formats for writing a student learning outcome statement:

  • Format #1: To <<action verb>>  <<object>> <<target>> <<modifiers>>
  • Format #2: The <<target>> <<action verb>> <<modifiers>> <<object>>
  • Students will be able to <<action verb>> to describe knowledge, skills, or dispositions


Outcomes are achieved results or consequences of what was learned; i.e., evidence that learning took place.

Outcomes are:

  • student-centered
  • describe what it is that the learner should learn
  • statement that specify what learners will know or be able to do as a result of a learning activity
  • more precise, specific, and measurable

 If possible, use student-centered language to create your student learning outcomes, e.g., “Students will give examples of basic concepts in. . . .”  or “Students will have the capability to design…”