The first step for departments to conduct effective assessments of student learning is for their faculty to develop a shared understanding of the knowledge and skills that their graduates should be able to demonstrate as a result of their course of study. This is where departmental learning outcomes come in.
Departmental or programmatic learning outcomes broadly describe the learning that will take place across the curriculum through concise statements, made in specific and measurable terms, of what students will know and/or be able to do as the result of having successfully completed a program of study.
These web pages will address the steps involved in writing effective learning outcomes, identify the characteristics of well-written outcomes, and discuss some of the uses of outcomes in addition to assessment purposes.
These two words are often used interchangeably and both are related to the teaching and learning that is expected to take place in the classroom and over the course of a student’s career within a department. However, the difference between goals and outcomes lies in the emphasis on who will be performing the activities. Learning goals generally describe what an instructor or program aims to do; i.e., “The curriculum will introduce students to the major research methods of the discipline.” Whereas, a learning outcome describes in observable and measurable terms what a student is able to do as a result of completing a course or program; i.e., “At the completion of this program students will be able to explain the differences between research methods and identify strengths and limitations of various research designs.” The creation of effective learning outcomes focuses on the student and what he or she can do, not on what the instructor has taught.
Looking for Creating Course Objectives?
Looking for information on course objectives? Go to DePaul’s Teaching Commons for more information: