Intended Learning Outcomes: Revisions and Resources

Submitting New or Revised Department/Program ILOs:

Prior to submitting ILO Revisions on CourseLeaf for Curriculum Committee Approval:
  1. Discuss ILOs/ILO revisions within Department/Program, with Department Chair/Program Director and members of Department/Program
  2. Seek feedback from the Associate Dean for the Department/Program
  3. Submit proposed ILOs/revisions to the Assessment Committee via Google Forms

The Assessment Committee’s role in this process is to review and offer feedback on the new or revised ILOs before the department or program submits them to the Curriculum Committee. The Assessment Committee will direct any comments or suggestions to the proposer (generally understood to be the Program Director or Department Chair). New or revised ILOs will then be submitted by the department/program to the Curriculum Committee using CourseLeaf.  Following approval of department/program ILOs by the Curriculum Committee, the ILO statements and the date will be updated on the ILO website.

Tips for Writing Assessable ILOs:

Intended Learning Outcomes should hit the “sweet spot” between broad goals or competencies and specific performance indicators or measures:
  • Goal Area: Broad category of student learning (e.g., communication)
  • Competency: General statement of student learning; lacks context and is not measurable (e.g., “Students will communicate effectively.”)
  • LEARNING OUTCOME: Identifies what the student will be able to do as a result of the work (e.g., “Students will be able to speak formally in front of a group.”)
  • Performance Indicator: Specific, measurable statement identifying student performance required to meet the outcome (e.g., student delivers information clearly, utilizes visual support, manages questions appropriately)
  • Performance Measure: What will be done to determine student performance on the indicator (e.g., direct assessment by faculty/peers using a rubric)
Learning outcomes should follow the general model of “Students will <ACTION VERB> <SOMETHING CONCRETE>.”

Choose a specific and descriptive action verb. Verbs like “understand,” “know,” and “appreciate” are difficult to assess. Instead, think about the kinds of skills, abilities, or knowledge students will exhibit when they “know” or “understand” something. Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy is a common framework that can help you choose an appropriately descriptive verb. For a very deep dive into effective verbs, consider this paper (pp. 17-19 may be particularly useful) from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Limit the number of learning outcomes to 3-5. There may be many outcomes you desire for your students, but the learning outcomes you choose for your department or program should represent the key, foundational outcomes you want all students to achieve. Remember that you will be responsible for assessing the learning outcomes stated for your program, so limiting their number will make this process more manageable.

Focus on the learning, not the process. An outcome such as “Students will write multiple drafts of an essay” describes how students will learn, not what they will learn. Instead, focus on specific skills that students may gain from the stated process, such as “Students will identify effective communication strategies for their intended audience,” or “Students will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an argument.”

Use “and” sparingly. Consider whether students will have the opportunity to demonstrate each type of skill stated in the outcome (e.g., “identify, analyze, and evaluate”). Or, if the outcome dictates multiple types of content (e.g., “literary, cultural, and artistic artifacts”), consider whether students will be exposed to each of these dimensions. Using “or” instead of “and” can help make assessment more manageable and meaningful.

Intended Learning Outcomes should be used to guide not only assessment OF learning (whether students met the learning outcomes), but assessment AS and FOR learning, where students use feedback on their performance to inform and improve their future work, and instructors use students’ performance data to enhance their curriculum and teaching. Consider involving students in developing or revising learning outcomes for your course or program, in order to ensure that the language used is clear and that students are invested in achieving the stated outcomes. For more tips and resources related to learning outcomes, visit the Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment website.