Faculty Institute on Teaching

Learning Outcome Development

Outcome Improvement Examples

Example 1: Sociology

Hard-to-Measure

“I want students to realize and gain knowledge of institutional racism’s impact on minoritized families.”

Improved Course-Level Outcome

By the end of this course, you will be able to…

  • Explain how changes to U.S. housing policy have disproportionately affected minoritized families’ access to state services.

Discussion

Measuring moments ‘realization’ or quantifying each student’s individual increase in knowledge over the course of the semester is difficult. (How would you know whose knowledge has increased “the most?”)

It is much more straightforward to evaluate students’ explanations about the impact of specific policies. An instructor could look to the detail, accuracy, and specificity of students’ essays, short answer responses, or verbal presentations to understand whether core concepts from the course were sticking.

Moreover, a student who saw the revised outcome would have a much better sense of how their learning from this course might extend to other aspects of their life. They could use this ability to explain policy impacts while talking with their roommate or writing a legal brief.

Assignment- or Activity-Level LOs

The course-level learning outcome above would lend itself to more granular learning outcomes for an individual assignment or activity. Like a course-level learning outcome, an effectively written assignment-level learning outcome should be observable and measurable.

Some examples of learning outcomes for assignments and/or activities mapped to the course-level learning outcome above:

  • Summarize the history of sundown towns and sundown suburbs in the US.
  • List six to ten social or institutional practices that played a role in housing discrimination prior to Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988.
  • Identify a local or national policy that contributes to unequal access to public resources for minoritized families in the present day.

Example 2: SPEA–Public Affairs

Hard-to-Measure

“I want students to see how urban problems are important in their own lives.”

Improved Course-Level Outcome

By the end of this course, you will be able to…

  • Identify and defend a solution to an urban problem that is relevant to your own city, town, or campus.

Discussion

The revised learning outcome focuses on specific skillsets that can be taught and improved over the course of a single semester: the ability to locate or design an approach and then persuasively present that approach for an audience.

Assignment- or Activity-Level LOs

Some examples of learning outcomes for assignments and/or activities mapped to the course-level learning outcome above:

  • Describe three to five issues that affect the health or wellbeing of those living in your hometown, in Madison, or at UW-Madison.
  • Outline the individuals and institutions who have a role or stake in a local problem.
  • Devise a proposal for how one or more of the individuals or institutions associated with this issue could alter the problem.
  • Compose a poster that persuasively outlines the problem and your proposed solution for an audience of local community members.

Example 3: General

Hard-to-Measure

“My course teaches information literacy.”

Improved Course-Level Outcome

Two different approaches this instructor could take:

By the end of this course, you will be able to…

  • Identify database research strategies appropriate to a particular research question.
  • Evaluate a website for citation practices or conflicts of interest that affect its credibility.

Discussion

The first draft of this outcome covers so much ground as to be difficult to pin down: ‘information literacy’ is a large enough topic that two people might look at the first statement and come up with very different ideas of what the class will teach and assess. The revised LOs indicate two different directions this instructor could take in the course using more focused action verbs and descriptions of scope.

This is a general example. In practice, a class is likely to lend itself to even more specific course-level outcomes.

Assignment- or Activity-Level LOs

Some examples of learning outcomes for assignments and/or activities mapped to the course-level learning outcomes above:

  • Explain why a database is or is not appropriate to your research needs.
  • Outline the separate steps involved in accessing and filtering information in a database.
  • Describe the differences between an AND, NOT and OR in a Boolean search.

Example 4: College Composition

Hard-to-Measure

“By the end of this course, you will be able to understand your own approach to writing.”

Improved Course-Level Outcome

By the end of this course, you will be able to…

  • Develop a research plan for a major writing project in one of your undergraduate courses.

Discussion

As in the first example on this page, ‘understanding’ is hard to measure. Added to this, the phrase ‘your own approach to writing’ could apply to any number of contexts. By contrast, in the second version of this LO, the instructor has highlighted the specific things that students will have the knowledge and tools to accomplish at the end of the class rather than expressing a broad goal for students in the class.

Assignment- or Activity-Level LOs

Some examples of learning outcomes for assignments and/or activities in this course:

  • Describe four different notetaking strategies that students and researchers commonly use to organize new information.
  • Explain how different notetaking strategies make you think and feel as you are conducting research.
  • Compose a statement that explains how you will approach a research writing project for an audience who might want to undertake a similar project of their own.

 

Sources Excerpted and Adapted

Anderson, L. W., Krathwohl, D. R., Airasian, P. W., Mayer, R. W., Pintrich, P. R., Raths, J., & Wittrock, M. C. A Taxonomy for Learning Teaching and Assessing. (Complete ed.). New York: Longman, 2001.

“Developing Learning Outcomes.” Indiana University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. https://citl.indiana.edu/teaching-resources/course-design/developing-learning-outcomes/

 

License

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MTLE Resources by Christian Castro, Naomi Salmon, and Madison Teaching and Learning Excellence is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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