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Faculty Guide

Learning Objectives/Outcomes

What They Are

Learning outcomes, often called "learning objectives," are statements that describe student learning. They define the results of your teaching in terms of what the students will be able to do.

Why They Are Important

The first step in course development

  • Defining learning outcomes is an effective first step in planning. Once you know the results you are striving for you can step backwards through the planning process to ensure that your course or program has the components that will achieve your desired student outcomes.


  • Learning outcomes are essential for effective course and student-learning assessment. Once you set your outcomes you can build your assessment activities to directly measure the outcomes you defined.

Clear communication with prospective students

  • When presented a list of well crafted learning outcomes, students are better able to decide if a program or course is for them.

How to Develop Effective Learning Outcomes

Start by generating a list of ideas about what you want students to be able to do. Use action verbs and avoid hard-to-assess verbs like know and understand.

Learning outcomes often follow the AB(CD) format: Students (A=audience) will do (B=behavior), given (C=condition), with (D=degree of proficiency).

  • Students (A) will be able to compare and contrast two opposing arguments in the death penalty debate (B), providing legal precedents for each (D), given a 5 page writing assignment (C).

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Learning outcomes are specific not general

  • General: Student will understand both sides of the death penalty debate.

Learning outcomes describe results of learning not the steps taken to get there.

  • About process not learning: Students will read peer reviewed articles on the death penalty.

Learning outcomes are about the student, not the program, course or instructor.

  • About course, not student: This course will provide an overview of legal arguments in the death penalty debate.

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