Module 2: Planning for Outcomes

Developing Learning Outcomes:

Working from an Existing Course


Many teachers start in community colleges taking over an existing course. It's not unusual to be asked to teach a week—or even a day—before class starts and be handed a syllabus and a textbook to teach from. What do you do in this case?

Although you may not have the same time or freedom as a teacher planning a course from scratch, there are a few things you can do to modify an existing syllabus into one that is more student-centered and outcomes-focused.

Look at the learning outcomes or course objectives outlined in the curriculum.

If the syllabus is written in a traditional, content-focused format, the course objectives will outline what the teacher was planning to teach, not what is most important for students to be able to do at the end of the course.

See if you can rewrite the course objectives as three or four learning outcomes for the students.

This will make it clear to students what they will accomplish in the course and will help you keep student learning central to your teaching.

Look at the content mapped out in the rest of the syllabus, using your new student outcome statements as a filter.

Do all the readings, activities, and homework assignments support the student learning outcomes? If topics and readings no longer help the students attain the desired outcomes, get rid of them. If you find holes, ask your fellow teachers for suggestions on activities or try borrowing some ideas from teachers at other schools.