Guidelines for Writing Outcomes

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Guidelines for Developing and Writing Student Learning Outcomes for Courses

Following are a series of questions that the Curriculum/General Education Committee members will consider when reviewing outcome statements for courses.

Criteria for Outcome Statements

  • Does it describe what we intend the students will be able to do "out there" (in their life roles as worker, family member, community citizen, global citizen or lifelong learners) as opposed to an activity "in here" or in the classroom. Good outcome statements will suggest context to indicate "out there" orientation.
  • Does it describe what the students can DO with what they know or understand? This framework is rather than students demonstrating what they know or understanding what they know.
  • Is the statement clear? Does it give a clear sense of the course to faculty and to the students?
  • Is the statement robust (complex) enough to express the essential content (concepts, issues, skills knowledge, from the CCOG) in a way that is informative to students, to faculty and to the outside world?
  • Does the outcome statement suggest appropriate assessment tasks and quality criteria?
  • How do the course outcomes align with degree and certificate outcomes? They should feed into the program outcomes.
  • How do the course outcomes align with the college core outcomes?
  • Consider assessment as you consider outcomes.

Additional Principles for Course Outcomes

  1. In general a course should be described in three to six outcome statements.
  2. Some courses, particularly in career technical areas, may have more that six outcomes, but care should be taken to distinguish outcomes from a large list of skills or competencies.
  3. Skills and competencies can be mastered by repetition; outcomes are more complex, and speak to the aggregate of skills mastered, concepts understood, and knowledge acquired.
  4. Two courses cannot have identical outcomes.
  5. Courses may share outcomes, but at least one or more should be unique to each course, such as expressing differences in content or level.
  6. The context ("out there") for the outcome may be another course for which this course is a prerequisite, but it would be good if that is not the only outcome for a course.
  7. Avoid writing outcome statements with the words demonstrate, describe, discuss.
Some examples:

Some, but not all of these are PCC outcomes. Specific discipline names have been omitted or changed in most cases.

Original Demonstrate and understanding of the management process
Better Apply the management processes effectively in the work environment.
Why better? It looks outside the classroom, and speaks to how the students will carry this understanding into the real world "out there", in both level of integration of knowledge and in context. Use of the word APPLY and omission of the word DEMONSTRATE.
Original Discuss employment availability and trends in the ___________ industry.
Better Adapt career plans and seek professional development opportunities that reflect the changing trends in the __________ industry.
Why better? DISCUSS is a classroom activity, an outcome should apply to the post-classroom world.
Original Understand professional and ethical responsibility.
Better Work within the ethical and professional parameters of the ____________ profession.
Why better? The desired outcome is not that they would merely understand ethical issues, but act upon them, working ethically and professionally. It also speaks to the specific context.

Understand the history, current practices and mission of the _________________ profession.

Better Use an understanding of the history, current practices and the mission of the ___________ profession to make effective on-the-job professional decisions.
Why better? The understanding they have acquired in the classroom allows the individual to act upon or do something better than they otherwise would have.
Original Develop the skills necessary for the care of cancer patients
Better Skillfully care for cancer patients. This can be modified to specify the level by adding a degree of supervision required or modified to reflect specific context.
Why better? Development is something that happens during the course - the outcomes should speak to where a person should be as a result of having taken the course. Developmental steps can be woven into the individual course outcomes by specifying setting, supervision, or other discipline-specific parameters.