Student Learning Outcomes

Student learning outcomes identify knowledge, skills and attitudes students should gain or improve through engagement in an academic program or other learning experience. Student learning occurs outside the classroom and, depending upon the function of the unit, it may be not only appropriate, but integral to the assessment process, for administrative units to have goals and objectives that are student learning outcomes. For example, student health services may expect students to gain knowledge about healthy lifestyles or the financial aid office may expect students to gain financial literacy with respect to student loans.

The assessment of learning outcomes is typically associated with an action performed by the student to demonstrate that learning has occurred. Knowledge acquisition outcomes, for instance, might use actions like “find,” “describe” or “list”; comprehension outcomes can use “explain,” “distinguish” or “compare”; application outcomes can use “illustrate,” “solve” or “use”; and so on. (See Appendix E for Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs.) Evidence of learning can refer to products that demonstrate achievement (papers, test scores, presentations, performances, portfolios, works of art, musical compositions, lab results, etc.) or to knowledge and skills that support these efforts (writing effective arguments, collecting and analyzing data, reading a foreign language, etc.).