DePaul University Center for Teaching & Learning > Assessment > Learning Outcomes > Creating Outcomes
The first step for departments to conduct effective assessments of student learning is for their faculty to develop a shared understanding of the knowledge and skills that their graduates should be able to demonstrate as a result of their course of study. This is where departmental learning outcomes come in.
Departmental or programmatic learning outcomes broadly describe the learning that will take place across the curriculum through concise statements, made in specific and measurable terms, of what students will know and/or be able to do as the result of having successfully completed a program of study.
These two words are often used interchangeably and both are related to the teaching and learning that is expected to take place in the classroom and over the course of a student’s career within a department. However, the difference between goals and outcomes lies in the emphasis on who will be performing the activities. Learning goals generally describe what an instructor or program aims to do; i.e., “The curriculum will introduce students to the major research methods of the discipline.” Whereas, a learning outcome describes in observable and measurable terms what a student is able to do as a result of completing a course or program; i.e., “At the completion of this program students will be able to explain the differences between research methods and identify strengths and limitations of various research designs.” The creation of effective learning outcomes focuses on the student and what he or she can do, not on what the instructor has taught.
Looking for information on course objectives? Go to DePaul’s Teaching Commons for more information.
Writing learning outcomes should be a reflective, faculty-guided process as the members of the department best understand their discipline and their expectations of their majors. Many departments find the following steps to be helpful as they begin the process of creating learning outcomes for their majors.
“Students will be able to design and conduct experiments to address questions germane to the discipline.”
“Students will be able to design and administer surveys that address questions appropriate to the discipline.”
“Students will be able to conduct interviews and focus groups that address questions relevant to the discipline.”
“Students will be able to design and execute research plans using the major methodologies of the discipline (experiments, surveys, qualitative techniques, etc.) to answer disciplinary specific questions.”
If your department already has learning goals that it would like to develop into outcomes or is examining its current learning outcomes there are several characteristics to look for:
The Center for Teaching & Learning is available to consult with departments and individual faculty members, additionally the office has many resources on assessment and creating learning outcomes that we’re happy to share.
As mentioned, identifying the most important things students should learn within their programs is the first step in deciding what should be assessed, but learning outcomes have other uses as well; they: