How to Create Student Learning Outcomes

What is a student learning outcome (SLO)?

A concise written statement of knowledge, skills, or values students will acquire upon completing the course or degree program. It is an explicit statement of what students should know or be able to do.

For Mason’s academic degree programs, student learning outcomes should reflect opportunities that are available to all students in the program.

Breaking down student learning outcomes

Student = Focus is on students, not on the program, course, or instructor

Learning = An action that involves a cognitive process

Outcome = Measureable, observable event

Ideal learning outcomes contain:

  • A statement that begins with identifying the learner (“Upon completing this course/program, students will be able to…)
  • A cognitive action verb (e.g., define, compute, analyze, critique, synthesize, design, construct). Avoid the verbs “know” and “understand.” Consult Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy for good verbs to use.
  • One measureable learning statement per outcome

Good examples

Students will design an experiment that tests a valid hypothesis

Students will construct appropriate and professional criticisms during design critiques

Students will interpret basic statistical analyses

Students will analyze Salman Rushdie’s early works using postcolonial theory

Students will summarize the main ethical considerations relevant to the field of nanotechnology

Bad examples

Students will complete 200 hours of internship experience

Improve writing a research paper

Students will appreciate 20th century American literature

The program will offer students the opportunity to build their research skills by conducting authentic laboratory experiments

Examples that need some improvement

Students will communicate effectively and within the norms of the field

Students will understand the historical context of evolutionary theory

Students will know the major morphophonological rules of English

Additional Resources

9 Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning
Bloom’s Taxonomy of Measurable Verbs

For clear and detailed instruction on developing program-level student learning outcomes, check out:

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