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Define Outcomes

Outcomes → Methods → Analyze and Use Results → Document

Outcomes Clearly Stated

Review the mission and general goals for your program

Mission: The purpose of the program, focusing on educational values, major areas of knowledge covered in the curriculum, and careers or future studies for which graduates are prepared.

Goals: Two or three most important goals of the program. These may be drawn from various areas, including student preparation, research contribution, and service to the community and university.  

Identify the student learning outcomes and/or program outcomes to be assessed.

Learning outcomes are concrete, specific statements that describe knowledge, skills, or attitudes that are considered important for program graduates to demonstrate.   

Program outcomes address important program metrics over and above student learning. They may include, for example, time to degree, student satisfaction, student retention, or post-graduation placement.

  1. Specify learning outcomes - the important knowledge, skills, and attitudes that you expect students in each program to demonstrate.
  2. Specify program outcomes - in addition to student learning, how do you measure the success of your academic program?
  3. Select the level of student (e.g., fourth-year undergraduate; second year graduate) that will provide the best measure for each learning outcome.  

Recommendations for writing learning outcomes:

  1. Be selective: propose one or a few learning outcomes for assessment.  
  2. Keep it simple, but meaningful. In general, don't write "compound outcomes", such as "students will know A, B, and C" unless, in your view, A, B, and C must be considered together.  
  3. Word your outcomes to reflect your specific purpose. Select your target students and calibrate the wording to your expectations for their learning—the level of knowledge or skill that you want to assess. Use active words.

Learning outcomes can be classified using Bloom’s Taxonomy (below), which categorizes student performance into six cognitive levels, organized from basic ("Knowledge") to complex ("Synthesis"). You can match active verbs to each cognitive level as you write your student learning outcomes. For example, third-year students may likely be at the first level (knowledge) whereas finishing graduate students should be able to perform at the higher levels (analysis, evaluation, and/or synthesis).


Bloom's Taxonomy


Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals.

Suskie, L. (2010). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. John Wiley & Sons.

Frye, Richard, Gary R. McKinney, and Joseph E. Trimble, eds. Tools and Techniques for Program Improvement: A Handbook for Program Review and Assessment of Student Learning. Western Washington University, Office of Institutional Assessment, Research, and Testing, 2006.