Writing Program Learning Outcomes

Program Learning Outcomes or Program Outcomes (PO’s) describe the measurable knowledge, skills, abilities, or behaviors that faculty want students to be able to demonstrate by the time they graduate. Your PO’s should apply to your discipline and include competencies considered critical to your field.

Outcomes answer the question: What will students be able to do or demonstrate as a result of their studies?

Writing outcomes
  1. Every outcome should align with the departmental mission.
  2. Every outcome should be measurable, written so that the student demonstrates, applies, or performs a visible activity, e.g., “Students will be able to…”.
  3. Every outcome needs at least three methods linking to a specific curricular or extra-curricular task such as a class project, an exam, a homework assignment, or a field activity. The method uses a metric, tool, or instrument (a rubric, a checklist, etc.) to measure student competence. Having three methods shows that key outcomes receive attention in multiple classes.
  4. Each method requires a criterion. This identifies the target or minimum performance standard for each student assignment (e.g., 75% of students will achieve a ‘satisfactory’ rating on a rubric).
Selecting methods
  • Remember that one method does not fit all, so choose carefully based on specific needs
  • Capitalize on what you are already doing or collecting
  • Be pragmatic in terms of time and resources
  • Don’t try to measure everything or everybody—you can sample students and classes
  • Remember that quantity of data does not equate to quality

View an example of an outcome and methods.

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Program Learning Outcome Components
Instructional Objective Outcomes
(data collection)
(standard of performance)
An objective of this course is to… As a result of this objective, students will be able to . . . To meet this outcome, students will… To evaluate this outcome, faculty will… As a sign of success, the target will be…
enhance student communication skills speak in an engaging, logical, and well-articulated way give an oral presentation on a relevant topic of their choice grade the presentation using a 3-point rubric that measures precision of language, comprehension of material; logic of arguments; use of eye contact; and effectiveness of answering questions 80% of students will achieve at least an average of a 2

Program Learning Outcome Checklist
  Align with mission Identify what students will be able to do or demonstrate Appear visible and measurable Link to specific assignment or task Describe an evaluation method Identify a performance standard
Does outcome 1 …            
Does outcome 2 …            
Does outcome 3 …