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Student Learning Outcomes

Why does your class exist?

Student Learning OutcomesThis foundational question is at the heart of pedagogical assessment and provides the best starting point for determining not only what we teach, but how and why as well. In an ideal world, we recognize that we teach so that others can learn, and we traditionally define the learners as our students. But what about the outcomes? What is it that we want or need or expect our students to be able to know or do or demonstrate in our classes? Here we must move beyond the simple answer of "learning" and towards a more sophisticated answer that identifies and provides evidence of learning.

But this does not have to be an arduous task; it's not. We tend to overcomplicate—and to overstuff—the teaching and learning process, and often this is because we start at the beginning instead of the end. In most cases, the ambitious professor begins with a class title, a generic description, and builds a syllabus from there—dotting the landscape with rules, policies, readings, and assignments. But is this the best way to design a learning experience?

What if we backwards-designed our classes?

What if we built everything from and around one simple question: "What do I really want or need my students to know or to be able to do in order for them to be able to reveal what they have learned?"

This requires us to have the endgame in mind and to think about—and clearly articulate—
tudent Learning Outcomes.

By starting at the end, we can—indeed must—think about the best way to develop, articulate, accomplish, and assess student learning outcomes.


  • Student Learning Outcomes Workbook (pdf)
    This PDF includes a number of templates and tactics designed to simplify the process and to help create impactful learning experiences.