Developing Learning Outcomes

What is an outcome?

College Definitions
The term "outcome" refers to what students need to be able to do in real life roles for which this program/course will prepare them. At COCC, Academic Affairs (AA) has defined student learning outcomes as the expectation of skills, competencies, practices, aptitudes, and/or knowledge that, due to active participation in a program, degree, or course, a student will be able to demonstrate.

Best Practices

  1. When possible, compose outcomes from all stakeholders perspectives, in language all are likely understand (i.e. avoid jargon, when possible). See example.
  2. Write outcomes with the following expression in mind: as a result of completing this course/program, students will be able to.... (You won't actually state this expression in the outcome.) See example.
  3. Begin each outcome statement with a verb. Blooms Taxonomy verbs are helpful to use because they can be used to describe several assignment types (e.g. explain, evaluate, analyze, apply).
  4. Regardless of which verb is chosen, the outcome should describe something that is verifiable. In other words, the outcome should express something that an instructor can evaluate, measure, or grade. See example.
  5. Programs and courses should have 3 to 5 SLOs.
  6. When possible (preferably on the syllabus), make alignments between course learning outcomes, Core Themes, program outcomes, and state general education outcomes evident and discernible.
  7. COGs and POGs are helpful tools to help organize outcomes in the context of concepts, issues and skills.


Outcomes should be numbered, begin with a capitalized verb, and end with a period. They should complete the sentence: "As a result of completing this course/program, students will be able to...." Example of correct outcomes format:

1. Examine the causes of service breakdown and apply service recovery techniques.

Things to Avoid

Verbs like understand and learn are weak outcomes verbs because understanding and learning are difficult verbs to verify. One way to replace "understand" is to use instead the concept of "Use your understanding of x to......" and continue with a more active and assessable verb statement.

Be sure that outcome verbs correspond with assessment tasks. For an outcome that states that students will "Describe how," students can describe their thoughts in a paper or in a short essay on an exam. However, if an outcome states that students will "Create" and their assignment is a multiple-choice test, the instructor will not be able to verify that a student can effectively analyze by means of this assessment tool.

Improving Student Learning Outcomes

Use this scoring guide to evaluate your outcomes.

1. Do student learning outcomes describe what students will be able to do (e.g. at the end of term, in real life roles, later in their program) upon completing the course?

  • Sometimes it helps to complete the following phrase: Upon completion of this course, students will be able to...
  • Choose verbs (e.g. compose, distinguish, appraise, show) that accurately describe the type of activity the student is performing (e.g. synthesis, analysis, evaluation, application).

2. Are the verbs rhetorically accurate? In other words, do they express what the student will do when evaluated through an assessment tool or activity?

  • A student learning outcome asks students to select or identify certain items, which is evaluated through the use of a test.
  • A student learning outcome states that a student will relate or discuss, which is evaluated during a group presentation or seminar.
  • A student learning outcome states that a student will apply knowledge gained in the course, which is verified by a skills check at a practicum site.

3. Do assessment tools and activities measure student learning outcomes?

4. Differentiate concepts, issues and skills from outcomes.

  • Concepts identify what learners must come to understand.
  • Issues identify challenges learners must be able to resolve, or problems and dilemmas that require critical thinking and decision making.
  • Skills are means and methods to accomplish tasks. They may be very specific or general (e.g. critical thinking, writing, listening, planning).
  • Outcomes are what students need to be able to do in real life roles for which this program/course will prepare them.