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Writing Course Outcomes

Criteria for Outcome Statements

Outcomes should reflect the essential course content. Typically, a course will have one to six outcomes, a one-credit course would likely have few outcomes, whereas a multi-credit course would likely have more.

The stem for the list of outcomes is: “Upon successful completion of the course students should be able to . . .”

Course outcome statements should:

  • Describe what students should be able to do upon successful completion of the course to demonstrate their knowledge of and/or their capabilities relating to course content.
  • Represent themes, key concepts, or comprehensive skill sets.
  • Be supported by all other sections of the CCOG.
  • Be measurable and assessable.
  • Be aligned with degree, certificate, and/or PCC core outcomes where appropriate.
  • When possible, use language that is accessible to a broad audience including students, faculty, external agencies, and the public.

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 than 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 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.

Aspirational goals

Apart from outcome statements, some SACs may have goals for a course which are not measurable or for which students may not be held accountable (e.g., “enjoy a life enriched by calculus” or “take pride in one’s work”). These aspirational goals may be essential to a SAC’s conception and/or motivation for the course and its hope for the students; however, they are not outcome statements as outlined above. There is a new optional field for SAC-determined aspirational goals in the CCOG. Faculty may also include their own individual aspirational goals in their syllabi.


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

  • Original: Demonstrate an understanding of the management process
    • Better: Apply the management processes effectively in the work environment.
    • Why is it 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 is it 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 is it 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.
  • 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 is it 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.

For assistance in writing outcome statements, please contact Susan Watson.