Writing Student Learning Outcomes
What are academic program level student learning outcomes?
Student learning outcomes describe the knowledge, skills, abilities or attitudes that a student should demonstrate upon completion of a program of study.
Every SLO should have a few key components. Consider the ABCDs (Smaldino, Lowther, & Russell, 2007):
In most cases, this is the student or graduate. SLOs are about the learning that students will demonstrate, not the courses, services, or experiences a program will provide. Each statement must have an actor. For example, it is common practice to begin statements with “Students will be able to...” or “Graduates can...”.
What will the student be able to do to demonstrate the knowledge or learning? Strong SLOs use active verbs (See Bloom’s Taxonomy Handout). Every SLO must have behavior(s) specified.
In what format or context will the student demonstrate the learning? For example, if students are demonstrating learning through an e-portfolio, then the e-portfolio is considered the condition. A condition could describe resources (like an e-portfolio platform) which a student would need to access to in order to achieve the SLO. A SLO may or may not have a condition, depending on the context.
This is the criteria or standard for performing the task well enough. For example, if you ask students to do a task with 80% accuracy, this would be the criteria for performing the task well enough. Degree is often used in course level SLOs but may or may not be used in a program level SLO, depending on context. It may be understood that for a specific program level SLO, students should meet the objective all of the time.
Note: Ordering of these different elements may vary.
Example of a Program Level SLO:
Students will create a research portfolio that demonstrates the capacity to carry out original research in the field.
Actor= Students; Behavior= create; Condition= research portfolio
Note: There is no degree on this program level SLO because it is implied that the student either meets the objective or they do not.
Examples of clear, measurable program level SLOs:
- Students will use technology to effectively analyze and communicate information.
- Students will collect, analyze, and interpret data relevant to test a hypothesis.
- Students will analyze and interpret texts using written or oral arguments with appropriate support.
Avoid these words as the sole action verb of your statement:
know, learn, understand, appreciate, be aware of, explore, become familiar with, gain insight of, realize
Note: These words can make SLOs difficult to measure. (See Bloom’s Taxonomy Handout for measurable verbs.) However, if faculty decide that some of these less measurable verbs are necessary for their discipline, be sure to include a measurable verb that demonstrates how your outcome will be achieved.
Students will develop an appreciation of French culture by critically evaluating historical literary works.
Reference: Smaldino, Lowther, & Russell, 2007