Effective learning outcomes can take many forms, but each must:
- Have an action word that describes what the student will DO differently as a result of your course
- Describe meaningful learning
- Be measured/verified; i.e., you can measure students' ability to achieve them
- Represent high levels of thinking, rather than trivial tasks
- Be written in plain language students can understand
Outcome statements that meet all of the above criteria are sometimes challenging to craft alone; you might want to bounce ideas off of a colleague.
With practice you should be able to get your ideas down to a few clearly written statements that define the purpose of the course for you and your students.
Here are two samples:
- Demonstrate the addition of sine waves using physical devices, instrumentation, and graphs.
- Use physical and chemical properties to determine the quality of paper samples and make recommendations based on specific requirements.
In the previous section, you envisioned students in the workplace and considered the input of your industry and program. Now come up with one to three outcomes that summarize what you want your students to be able to do as a result of taking your course.
Compare Your Answers
Consider the following outcome statements. Based on what you've just read, which of the following meet the criteria listed above, and which need to be revised or totally rewritten? Compare your answers to ours.
Understand Newton's three laws of motion."Understand" is not an action word and does not describe what students will be able to do differently as a result of the course. A better outcome might be: Use Newton's three laws of motion to predict motion in three dimensions.
Express numbers in scientific notation using the correct number of significant digits.This statement describes a discrete skill, but not an overarching goal of a class. A better outcome might be: Express and manipulate numbers effectively using the concepts of scientific notation, significant digits, and SI unit measurements.
Diagnose failures in the vacuum, mechanical components, and controls of HVAC systems and determine necessary action for repairs.This statement meets all the criteria.
Identify unknown bacteria using gram stain, biochemical, and other microbiological methods for identification.This statement meets all the criteria.
Appreciate the difference between various forms of graphical representation.This statement is vague and is not measurable. A better outcome might be: Given a set of data, construct a time series, scatterplot, or histogram to show relationships between quantities.