Writing Student Learning Outcomes to Transform and Advance Student Learning

Once upon a time, I was the Director of Student Affairs Assessment and Research. During my tenure, I put together a website and this particular webpage on writing student learning outcomes is often cited. As such, I am including it here for use within the field.

Original website: http://sa-assessment.uoregon.edu/ResourcesandTraining/WritingStudentLearningOutcomes.aspx

Writing Student Learning Outcomes to Transform and Advance Student Learning

What does this mean for assessment? To understand how we might be impacting student learning we must first define our student learning outcomes and then measure if the program or service implemented to facilitate such learning was effective.

Learning Outcomes are goals that describe how a student will be different because of a learning experience.  More specifically, learning outcomes are the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience. (Suskie, 2009).

The Division of Student Affairs will be updated with learning outcomes defined by the Curriculum Committee. Program Learning Outcomes should be defined through a strategic planning process to align with the division’s learning outcomes and strategic plan.

It may be difficult to know where to start in writing a student learning outcome. Here are some questions that might help you brainstorm a list of outcomes.

  1. What do you want the student to be able to do?
  2. What knowledge, skill or abilities should the ideal student participant demonstrate?
  3. How will students be able to demonstrate what they learned?
  4. How does this program and outcome fit within the Division’s Student Learning Outcomes?

The focus should be on what a student will be able to do with the information or experience.

Once you have identified the intended outcomes, you will want to write a formal learning outcome statement. The key is to make sure the statement is S.M.A.R.T.

Specific-Outcome is focused on a specific category of student learning. If it is too broad it will be difficult to measure.

Measureable- Data can be collected to measure student learning.

Attainable- The outcome is attainable given the educational experience.

Results-Focused- The program outcome is aligned with Divisional Student Learning Outcomes.

Tailored- Outcome is specificly tailored to the program.

The following statement may get you started:

As a result of participating in (program or experience), students should be able to (action verb) + (defined by explicit and observable terms).

How Many Outcome Statements Should I Write?

It is recommended that you limit yourself to 3-6 outcomes. Try to focus on the most important goals of your program. Remember in the end, you have to measure all of them!

A helpful and frequently used resource when writing student learning outcomes is Bloom’s Taxonomy of Cognitive Skills. Below you will find a chart that shows the multiple levels of student learning, beginning with the simplest form and ending with the most complex.

Teaching in Blooms

Blooms Category Definition Action Verb What the

Teacher Does


Learning Activities


Information Gathering

recalling or remembering something without necessarily understanding, using, or changing it Tell, list, describe, name, repeat, remember, recall, identify, state, select, match, know, locate, report, recognize, observe, choose, who, what, where, when, cite, define, indicate, label, memorize, outline, record, relate, reproduce, underline Directs




Lecture, reading, audio/visual, demonstration, question and answer period, memorize and recite

Deeper Understanding of Knowledge

understanding something that has been communicated without necessarily relating it to anything else Explain, restate, find, describe, review, relate, define, clarify, illustrate, diagram, outline, summarize, interpret,  paraphrase, transform, compare similarities and differences, derive main idea, arrange, convert, defend, discuss, discuss, estimate, extend, generalize, give examples, locate, report, translate Demonstrates





Discussions, reflection, illustrate main idea,

Use of Knowledge

using a general concept to solve problems in a particular situation; using learned material in new and concrete situations Apply, practice, employ, solve, use, demonstrate, illustrate, show, report, paint, draw, collect, dramatize, classify, put in order, change, compute, construct, interpret, investigate, manipulate, modify, operate, organize, predict, prepare, produce, schedule, sketch, translate Shows




Role plays, case studies, fishbowl activities, construct a model, collection of photographs

Compare and Contrast

breaking something down into its parts; may focus on identification of parts or analysis of relationships between parts, or recognition of organizational principles Analyze, dissect, detect, test, deconstruct, discriminate, distinguish, examine, focus, find coherence, survey, compare, contrast, classify, investigate, outline, separate, structure, categorize, solve, diagram, determine evidence and conclusions, appraise, break down, calculate, criticize, debate, experiment, identify, illustrate, infer, inspect, inventory, question, relate, select Probes



Acts as a resource

Practice by doing, simulated job settings, write a commercial to sell a product, make a flow chart, put on a play or skit, write a biography, plan an event

Judging the Outcome

judging the value of material or methods as they might be applied in a particular situation; judging with the use of definite criteria


Coordinate, judge, select/choose, decide, debate, evaluate, justify, recommend, verify, monitor, measure, the best way, what worked, what could have been different, what is your opinion, test, appraise, assess, compare, conclude, contrast, criticize, discriminate, estimate, explain, grade, interpret, rate, relate, revise, score, summarize, support, value Accepts

Lays bare the criteria


Use in real situations, on the job training, create a new product, write a new language code and write in it, persuasively present an idea, devise a way to solve a problem, compose a rhythm or put new words to a song

Original or new creation

creating something new by putting parts of different ideas together to make a whole. Create, hypothesize, design, construct, invent, imagine, discover,  present, deduce, induce, bring together,  compose, pretend, predict, organize, plan, modify, improve, suppose, produce, set up, what if, propose, formulate, solve (more than one answer), arrange, assemble, categorize, collect, combine, devise, explain, generate, manage, perform, prepare, rearrange, reconstruct, relate, reorganize, revise, argue for Reflects




Self study, learning through mistakes, create criteria to judge material, conduct a debate, write a half yearly report,

University of Oregon | Division of Student Affairs

Amber Garrison Duncan

Adapted from these resources:



L. W. Anderson and D. R. Krathwohl (eds). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching and Assessing (based on Bloom’s Taxonomy), 2001.

Bloom’s Taxonomy Blooms Digitally– a great resource for understanding how Bloom’s applies in a digital age!

National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

San Diego State University- 360 Action Verbs for Writing Student Learning Outcomes

University of Rhode Island- Student Learning Outcomes 101

University of Conneticut- How to Write Learning Outcomes

University of Texas Arlington- Learning Outcomes Workshop

University of California, Irvine- Guidelines for Writing SLO’s

University of Virginia


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