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Defining Learning Outcomes

A learning outcome is a statement that identifies the knowledge, skills and attributes students will learn if they take a course or program. They are written with the student in mind and use clear and plain language.

Since learning is unpredictable or not guaranteed, and each student learns at their own speed, learning outcomes serve as β€˜guideposts’ for both the teacher and student.

The teacher uses learning outcomes to help design learning experiences and to offer guidance to students as they progress throughout those experiences.

The student uses learning outcomes as an indication of where they are heading and how they will be expected to demonstrate learning.

Learning Outcomes:

  • are direct statements about intended/anticipated student learning
  • include the depth of learning expected by the end of a course / program
  • reflect the fact that learning is not predictable
  • are guideposts
  • may adapt / change over period of a course / program
  • include the knowledge, skills and values required by students to demonstrate learning of core concepts
  • are often presented in the cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains
  • are often described in terms of the 3 H’s: the habits of the head, the hand and the heart
Tip While we do our best to create appropriate learning outcomes, unintended learning outcomes can arise during the progress of a course or over a program’s lifetime. Some learning outcomes may be more constant, whereas others may need to be adjusted, enhanced or created due to changes in learning situations, student needs or course design needs.

Learning outcomes are not fixed and may evolve as the course / program develops over years and as students engage in their learning experiences.

A typical 3-credit course may have 5-8 learning outcomes, prefaced by a statement such as: By the end of this course, students will be able to…

A program may have 5-12 broadly stated learning outcomes. Program-level learning outcomes help students identify what they will learn if they take a program. They are connected to institutional goals and degree-level expectations. As an example, the BC Associate Degree Requirements showcases broad statements identifying the knowledge, skills and attributes students can expect to learn if they engage in this level of study (e.g., “an interest in and curiosity about the world around them”).

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  • NIC – Writing Effective Learning Outcomes at Program and Course Levels: PDF Version
Learning Outcomes Why Use Learning Outcomes