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Library Instruction: Learning Outcomes

What are learning outcomes?

Learning outcomes are statements that describe the learning that students can demonstrate at the end of a course, program, or class.  

Structure of a Learning Outcome: 

  1.  an action work that identifies the performance to be demonstrated 
  2. a learning statement that specifies what learning will be demonstrated in the performance 
  3. a broad statement of criterion or standard for acceptable performance 

ABCD (audience, behavior, condition, and degree) method:

  • Audience: Who is the target audience? (e.g., "FYS students will be able to")
  • Behavior: What is the work to be accomplished by the learner? (e.g., "distinguish") 
    • Should be both observable and measurable behaviors
    • Should refer to action verbs that describe behaviors 
      • avoid verbs such as know, understand, learn, believe, know 
  • Condition: What are the conditions/constraints in which the learners will be expected to perform these tasks? (e.g., "at the end of the class") 
  • Degree: How will the behavior need to be performed (e.g., "between primary and secondary sources") 
  • example: At the end of the course, FYS students will be able to distinguish between primary and secondary sources 

Action phrase + in order to + action phrase 

•Example: FYS students will be able to craft search strategies in order to find one relevant article from a peer-reviewed journal.

Characteristics of Strong Learning Outcomes

Student learning outcomes (SLOs) statements should:

  • specify the level, criterion, or standard for the knowledge, skill, ability or disposition that the student must demonstrate
  • include conditions under which they should be able to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, abilities, or dispositions
  • contain active verbs (see Bloom's taxonomy) 
  • be measurable 
  • be stated so that they can be measured by more than one assessment methods
  • not join elements that need to be assessed by separate methods 

Learning Outcome Checklist

  • Are the outcomes specific?
  • Are the outcomes simply stated?
  • Are the outcomes written using action verbs to specify observable behavior? 
  • Do they use vague or unclear language, such as "understand" or "comprehend"?
  • Do the outcomes clearly describe and define the expected abilities, knowledge, and values of learners?
  • Are learners at the center of the outcome, or does it focus on the teacher behaviors?
  • Is it possible to collect accurate and measurable data for each outcome?
  • If not, can it be re-written? 
  • Is it possible to use a single method to measure each outcome? 
  • Can the outcomes be used to identify areas for improvement?

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Additional Resources on Writing Learning Outcomes