Tips on Writing Learning Outcomes
What is a learning outcome?
Learning outcomes are statements of what students will learn in a class or in a class session.
The statements are focused on student learning (What will students learn today?) rather than
instructor teaching (What am I going to teach today?). These statements should include a verb
phrase and an impact ("in order to") phrase -- what students will do/be able to do and how they
will apply that skill or knowledge.
Sample Learning Outcomes for Library Instruction
- Students will be able to search a database using boolean logic and flexible vocabulary in order
to retrieve articles that are on-target and topic-relevant.
- Students will know the name and contact information for their subject librarian in order to get
subject specific library help.
- Students will be able to develop topic-relevant vocabulary in order to search databases with
maximum flexibility and effectiveness.
- Students will be able to use a thesaurus or controlled language list in order to select topic
- Students will be able to construct a search statement using topic-relevant and controlled
vocabulary in order to search databases with maximum effectiveness.
How do I write learning outcomes?
Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objectives (published in 1956 and revised in 2001) gives you a
way to express learning outcomes in a way that reflects cognitive skills.
There are five levels (lowest to highest cognitive skills):
You can use Bloom's taxonomy to identify verbs to describe student learning. Examples of
learning outcomes verbs for library instruction include:
- Knowledge/Remembering: define, list, recognize
- Comprehension/Understanding:characterize, describe, explain, identify, locate, recognize,
- Application/Applying: choose, demonstrate, implement, perform
- Analysis/Analyzing: analyze, categorize, compare, differentiate
- Evaluation/Evaluating: assess, critique, evaluate, rank, rate
- Synthesis/Creating: construct, design, formulate, organize, synthesize
There are some verbs to avoid when writing learning outcomes. These verbs are vague and often
not observable or measurable. For example, how would you measure whether someone has "become
familiar with" a particular tool? Use a more specific verb. If you want students to "understand"
something, think more closely about what you want them to be able to do or produce as a result of
Verbs to avoid:
- Know about
- Become familiar with
- Learn about
- Become aware of
How do I use learning outcomes in my teaching practice?
When you have concrete and specific learning outcomes like the ones above, you can use those
learning outcomes to assess student learning through worksheets or one-minute papers where students
demonstrate that they have met the learning outcome.
Adapted from ACRL/IIL Immersion materials