Writing Course-level Student Learning Outcomes

Writing Course-level Student Learning Outcomes is not really that difficult. Some departments already have course level SLOs. Some have program-level SLOs. Some departments don't yet have formalized SLOs. The information below is designed to help departments write and implement SLOs at the course level. More generalized instructions and examples are listed first with a table of discipline specific examples of SLOs following.

Each course-level student learning should meet all of the following criteria:
  1. describes specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that students must demonstrate. (An outcome should not simply indicate that a student will complete a particular task without indicating the knowledge, skills, and abilities students should demonstrate in the completion of the task.);
  2. is specific enough to meaningfully inform instruction and assessment;
  3. Is applicable to all sections of a course;
  4. includes action verbs that enable the student performance to be measured;
  5. represents current understandings in the field or discipline addressed by the course.

An excellent guide on Writing SLOs is in the Fresno College online guide, see pages 5-10. To help you start developing strong outcome statements, here are some examples of good SLOs and a comparison of poor SLOs versus strong, measurable SLOs. Examples of Good SLOs (specific, measurable student actions) and Poor SLOs (vague, not directly observable or measurable):

To help you start formulating a good SLO, here are some examples of good SLOs and a comparison of poor SLOs versus good, measurable SLOs.

Examples of Good SLOs (specific, measurable student actions) and Poor SLOs (vague, not directly observable or measurable):
Good Poor
Art + Students will be able to articulate the role art plays in society using a written critique of an art work.

+ Students will be able to identify the formal elements and principles of art, which apply to the creation, and discussion of an artwork.

+ Students will identify the connection of historical or current events, which contextualize the making of an artwork.
- Students will appreciate art.

- Students will learn how to discuss a work of art.

- Students will be familiar with culture and the relationship of art making.
Biology + Students will be able to list enzymes involved in DNA replication and explain their roles.

+ Students will apply principles of scientific inquiry, differentiate a theory from a hypothesis, and differentiate fact from opinion in regard to biological sciences. (Laney College)
- Students will understand the process of DNA replication.

- Students will know the scientific process.
Engineering + Graduates will be able to apply and demonstrate the principles of engineering design, formulating requirements and constraints, following an open-ended decision process involving tradeoffs, and completing a design addressing an aerospace engineering need.(Southern Polytechnic St. U.) - Students completing the undergraduate program in Hypothetical Engineering will have knowledge of engineering principles. (Southern Polytechnic St. U.)
English + Learners will demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively in both oral and written forms. (Univ. of Toledo) - Students will learn how to effectively communicate in both oral and written forms. (Univ. of Toledo)
Geosciences + Students will interpret unfamiliar tectonic settings based on information on physiography, seismicity, and volcanic activity.(from Barbara Tewksbury’s Designing Effective and Innovative Courses Tutorial.) - Students will understand plate tectonics. (from Barbara Tewksbury’s Designing Effective and Innovative Courses Tutorial.)
Historic Preservation + Students will be able to articulate how historic preservation is integrated into land use and comprehensive planning (San Jose State University). - Students will appreciate the role of historic preservation in planning.
History + Students should be able to give examples of, describe, and explain significant trends, movements, and events in European history.

+ Students will be able to compare and contrast historical perspectives of our world and describe the contributions of these historical perspectives. (Univ. of Toledo)
- Students should be able to understand significant trends, movements, and events in European history.

- This course will provide learners with an overview of historical perspectives of our world and help them develop an appreciation for the contribution of these various perspectives. (Univ. of Toledo)
Psychology + Students should be able to recognize and articulate the foundational assumptions, central ideas, and dominant criticisms of the psychoanalytic, Gestalt, behaviorist, humanistic, and cognitive approaches to psychology. (UCF) - Students should know the historically important systems of psychology. (UCF)

One place to look is in your disciplinary professional organization. Some professional organizations have already developed a set of course-level student learning outcomes.

Another place to lo for SLOs is in your discipline’s specialized accreditation body. Many have learning outcomes, competencies or standards at the program or even course level that can be used or turned into SLOs.

Note that MDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative refers to the 16 courses that had common learning outcomes developed through the Missouri Department of Higher Education Curriculum Alignment Initiative (CAI), now part of the Committee on Curriculum and Assessment (CCA). This initiative is alive and it would be good strategically to use SLOs identified in the CAI where possible. The 16 courses are listed under the relevant departments below.

Department Source Format
Accounting

San Diego State

URL

Biology

Laney College

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initative

URL

URL

Chemistry

Truman College

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative

URL

URL

Communication Studies

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative

URL

Computer Science

Brandeis

URL

Criminal Justice

Ventura College

URL

Economics & Fiance

San Diego State

URL

English

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative

URL

Global Cultures & Languages

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - 1st Semester

MDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - 2nd Semester

URL

URL

History

San Jose State - Historic Preservation

URL

Management & Marketing San Diego State - Marketing

URL

Math

MDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - Algebra

MDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - Trigonometry

Ventura College

URL

URL

URL

Music

Clark College

URL

Physics & Engineering Physics

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - Astronomy

MDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - Geology

MDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - Physics

UNC Wilmington

URL

URL

URL

URL

Political Science, Philosophy, and Religion

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - Philosophy

MDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative - Political Science

College of San Mateo - Philosophy

L.A. Harbor College - Political Science

URL

URL

URL

URL

Psychology

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative

Mt. San Antonio College

URL

URL

Theater & Dance

MDHMDHE - Curriculum Alignment Initiative

Santa Monica College

URL

URL