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Writing Student Learning Outcomes
WRITING STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES
Program student learning outcomes should be SMART; however, these outcomes are constructed based on the desired knowledge, skills and abilities students should possess and use action verbs to make them measureable.
More specifically, student learning outcomes describe what a student should know, think, or be able to do as a result of exposure to content in some form (e.g., academic program, workshops or processes, etc.). “Learning outcome statements are anchored in verbs that identify the actions, behaviors, dispositions, and ways of thinking or knowing that students should be able to demonstrate” (Maki, 2004, p. 61).
Keeping in mind the SMART outcome, below are three different methods to constructing learning outcomes.
SLO statements should clearly indicate the level and type of competence that is required. Avoid terms such as show understanding, develop awareness, possess a level of comfort, appreciate, become aware of, become familiar with, know, and learn. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy to find good verbs for writing learning outcomes.
Sample Program Student Learning Outcomes (SLO’s) Statements
(Action Verb) (Modifiers) (Object)
Example: Analyze the basic components of fire as a chemical reaction, the major phases of fire, and examine the main factors that influence fire spread and fire behavior.
Explanation: The action verbs “analyze” and “examine” indicate the expected level of performance. Students are expected to know about the basic components of a fire and how it behaves. With the action verb and the object, the outcome would read: analyze the basic components of fire. Is the outcome SMART? Modifiers specify the meaning of another word or phrase. Adding the words “chemical reaction”, “the major phases”, and “the main factors that influence” explicitly states what will be learned.
SWiBAT (Student Will Be Able To) + Active Verb + Condition (as a result of) + Measurement (as measured by or as demonstrated by …) + When (at what timeline).
Condition (As a result…; from participating in…. + Audience (selected population being assessed) + Behavior (active verb) + Degree of Achievement
COMPONENTS OF THE LEARNING OUTCOME:
Identify who is to learn: (e.g., students will; graduates will, etc.)
Know, think or do what? (Verb) (e.g., Level I—Knowledge; Level II—Comprehension;
Level III—Comprehension; Level IV—Application; Level
V—Analysis; Level VI—Synthesis; Level VII—Evaluation)
IDENTIFYING PERFORMANCE LEVELS FOR OUTCOME STATEMENTS
Student learning outcomes should clearly indicate the level and type of competence that is required. Avoid terms such as show understanding, develop awareness, possess a level of comfort, appreciate, become aware of, become familiar with, know, and learn. Use Bloom’s Taxonomy (p. 26) to identify appropriate verbs when writing SLO’s.
Below are examples of how the expected performance a student learning outcome changes based on the active verb indicated. These examples are based on the continuum in Figure VII on page 23.
Student can list the major theoretical approaches of the discipline.
Explanation: Active verbs in the “KNOWLEDGE” domain represent the lowest level of cognitive performance. Students are required to remember or recall content, resulting from a lecture, reading, or memorization of material. These verbs are useful when students are not required to have a deep understanding, but just to remember the content.
Students can describe the key theories, concepts and issues for each of the major theoretical approaches.
Explanation: Active verbs in the “COMPREHENSION” domain require students to understand something. Students who can describe or explain content understand it, which results from discussions, reflections, etc.
Students can apply theoretical principles to solve real-world problems.
Explanation: Active verbs in the “APPLICATION” domain require students to use what they have learned to solve a problem. This application of knowledge requires a deeper understanding of the concepts, resulting from critical thought, case studies, role plays, observations, etc.
Students can analyze the strengths and limitations of each of the major theoretical approaches for understanding specific phenomena.
Explanation: Active verbs in the “ANALYSIS” domain require students to break knowledge into parts and analyze the relationships between the parts.
Students can select the theoretical approach that is most applicable to a phenomenon and explain why they have selected that perspective.
Explanation: Active verbs in the “EVALUATION” domain require students to judge something using criteria that they have learned and deeply understand and apply that knowledge.
Students can combine theoretical approaches to explain complex phenomena.
Explanation: Active verbs in the “SYNTHESIS” domain require students to put parts or ideas together to make a whole based on their understanding of the information.