What are Course-Level Student Learning Outcomes?
While programmatic student learning outcomes (SLOs) encompass what students should be able to know, think, or do across all courses within a curriculum, course student learning outcomes are more specific and describe achievement expected in a particular course.
- Course outcomes should clearly relate to topics, assignments, and exams that are covered in the present course.
- Course outcomes should be clear, measurable, use verbs (e.g., identify, recall,) and may contribute to the assessment of program learning outcomes.
- Course outcomes are more detailed and specific than programmatic outcomes because they identify the unique knowledge and skills expected to be gained from a given course. However, course outcomes should be broad and general enough to accomodate changes in course content over time. For example, a course outcomes may be written as “students will be able to describe the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, and historical trends within a specialty area.” Not including specific concepts, perspectives, and trends will allow an instructor to add to those concepts/perspectives/theories that are newly-emerging without re-writing the course outcome.
- Course outcomes contribute to the achievement of programmatic outcomes. For example, if a programmatic outcome is: “students will be able to describe the major concepts, theoretical persectives, and historical trends in psychology,” a course outcome may be: “students will be able to describe the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, and historical trends in abnormal psychology” (i.e., a specific component of the discipline).
Writing a Course Outcome
- Unclear: The course will introduce you to major periods in the history of western music.
- Clear: You will be able to identify and summarize the important features of major periods in the history of western music.
- Unclear: You will understand important concepts and principles.
- Clear: You will be able to apply important concepts and principles of psychology todraw conclusions about populations from samples.
- Clear: You will be able to describe the operations of financial institutions and the services they provide.
- Unclear: You will write a term paper on a topic that interests you.
- Clear: You will be able to demonstrate your knowledge about the significance of current research in the field by writing a research report.
- Clear: You will be able to prepare and present effective, informative, and persuasive public speeches.
Additional Important Points
- It is possible for courses to have additional course learning outcomes that may not contribute to overall programmatic outcomes.
- The relationship between course and programmatic outcomes are described in a curriculum map.
- Detailed information and examples can be found in the pdf: Reference materials and helpful guidelines for writing program- and course-level student learning outcomes.
- University of West Florida’s Center for University Teaching, Learning, and Assessment.
- Cornell University Center for Teaching Excellence provides detailed information about course- versus program-level assessment.
- The University of Hawaii at Manoa has many workshops, including one focusing on course-level outcomes, and includes both PowerPoint slides and handouts.