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Student learning outcomes

Student learning outcomes, indicators, and competencies are different terms that all refer to "the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience," (Suskie, 2004).

How can I write effective learning goals/outcomes?

According to Suskie (2004) and Palomba and Banta (1999) the following suggestions provide several ways in which you can improve your written outcomes.

  • Aim for goals that are neither too broad nor too specific: the key is that the goals have to be assessable
  • Use concrete action words to describe student learning or behavior (what the students should be able to do); when possible, choose words that are not open to interpretation (identify, solve, or construct versus know, understand, or appreciate)
  • Focus on your most important goals: in order to make the assessment process manageable, limit the number of major program goals you will assess to between three and six
  • Work with colleagues: to write effective goals requires a detail orientation as well as a focus on the larger global picture; both perspectives are more likely to be represented when goals are developed cooperatively


Suskie, L. (2004). Assessing student learning. Bolton, MA: Anker.

Palomba, C. A., & Banta, T. W. (1999). Assessment Essentials. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.