Developing Student Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements of what is learned by students as opposed to what faculty teach, processes that students are exposed to, experiences that they should have, or their level of satisfaction.

Competencies include:

  • Knowledge – what should students know?
  • Skills – what should student be able to do?
  • Attitudes – what should students value, think or care about?

Competencies may be:

  • Factual
  • Conceptual
  • Procedural
  • Metacognitive

Student learning outcomes should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Aspirational, but Attainable
  • Reasonable and Relevant
  • Time-specific and Timely

Good learning outcomes are:

  • Learner centered
  • Key to the program or course mission
  • Meaningful for faculty and students
  • Representative of a range of thinking skills

Developing student learning outcomes:

  • Focus on specific, measurable, attainable goals related to the program
  • What evidence is needed to understand how well students are learning this?
  • Now write a learning outcome for your program
  • “At the end of this program, student will . . . [know, value, do]”




How do we choose which student learning outcomes to assess?

To select student learning outcomes to be included in your institutional effectiveness plan, please consider the following questions:

  • What are the three to five most critical outcomes for the academic program?
  • Is there a particular area of student achievement about which faculty have questions?
  • Are there topics, areas, or concepts with which students struggle on a regular basis?
  • Are there student learning outcomes already identified by a professional accrediting body?
College Sample Student Learning Outcome
Business Administration Students will demonstrate a proficiency in financial accounting, governmental accounting, and auditing.
Education and Human Development Students will demonstrate the ability to design, implement, and evaluate instruction for students with disabilities.
Engineering Students will demonstrate the ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems.
Liberal Arts Students will be able to identify important musical works in historical context. 
Sciences Graduate students will be able to explain in technical written and oral formats an advanced understanding of a current topic in the chemical literature.
Interdisciplinary Studies Students will demonstrate the ability to integrate ideas across disciplines and incorporate distinct perspectives in their learning processes.

College with Sample Student Learning Outcome Statements

The diagram below lists sample verbs for stating specific student learning outcomes. The verbs are grouped so as to demonstrate the movement from lower to higher level thinking.

Bloom's TaxonomyBloom’s Taxonomy

Developing Other Expected Outcomes

Expected outcomes must align with the university mission and strategic plan, while also demonstrating movement toward unit-specific improvement.  Consider the following:

  • How can we improve our unit?
  • What goals are fundamental to our unit’s operations?
  • Target problem areas
  • Target institutional priorities

Tools to improve operations

  • Efficiency
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Customer service
  • Overall effectiveness

Direction of change

  • Increase student satisfaction
  • Decrease student complaints
Unit Sample Expected Outcome
College The college seeks to maintain the highest quality faculty for teaching and research.
Academic Department Faculty members will engage in scholarly activities that advance knowledge in their academic fields.
Admissions Increase number of admitted students who are most likely to be successful at UNO.
Orientation Inform new students of on-campus resources such as academic and student services. 
Enrollment Services Increase satisfaction of customer service.
Facility Services Improve response time to Trouble Calls.
Midlo Center Sponsor one new public lecture series to link the university with the community.

Unit with Sample Expected Outcome Statements