Developing effective statements of intended learning outcomes

In Chapter 4 of Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses (2000), Mary E. Huba and Jann E. Freed offer a number of insights about the value of articulating intended learning outcomes, and several practical suggestions for doing so in ways that advance student learning. Below is a summary of their key claims.

Benefits of formulating intended learning outcomes (pp. 94-98)

  • Intended learning outcomes form the basis of assessment at the course, program, and institutional levels.
  • Intended learning outcomes provide direction for all instructional activity.
  • Intended learning outcomes inform students about the intentions of the faculty.

Characteristics of effective intended learning outcomes (pp. 98-117)

Huba and Freed’s list of characteristics can be viewed through the lens of our aspirations for assessment at St. Olaf. Effective statements of intended learning outcomes are:


  • Consistent with the institution’s mission and the values it represents
  • Student-focused rather than professor-focused
  • Aligned at the course, academic program, and institutional levels


  • Focused on the learning resulting from the activity rather than on the activity itself
  • Focused on important, non-trivial aspects of learning that are credible to the public
  • Focused on skills and abilities that are central to the discipline and are based on professional standards of excellence


  • General enough to capture important learning, but clear and specific enough to be measurable
  • Focused on aspects of learning that will develop and endure, but can be assessed in some form now