An overview of learning outcomes
Degree Program Student Learning Outcomes are statements of what students will know and be able to do (e.g., knowledge, concepts, ways of knowing, skills, values, attitudes, dispositions, etc.) upon completion of a degree program.
The primary purpose of Degree Program Student Learning Outcomes is to make teaching and learning purposeful. Learning outcomes provide a framework and a common language that both faculty and students can consistently apply to identify how a course (or even an assignment or learning experience) contributes to the purpose of the degree program.
In Backward Design, learning outcomes create a foundation for designing a program, as they identify faculty members’ learning “goals” or “objectives,” which we identify at NAU as “learning outcomes.” By identifying learning outcomes, faculty can then work backwards to develop approaches to instruction and course progression that will achieve their stated learning outcomes for the degree program.
Overall, when creating learning outcomes, the faculty want to translate the disciplinary concepts and skills of the expert (the faculty members) in a manner that is understood by a “novice,” who may be the student or other audience, that is unfamiliar with the field or area.
Effective outcomes facilitate student learning because they build the foundation for the degree program’s curriculum. When used in curriculum design, degree program student learning outcomes:
- Establish the learning priorities of the degree program;
- Communicate a unified vision of what faculty intend students will be able to achieve upon completion of the degree program;
- Tie together learning opportunities within and across courses; and
- Communicate how experiences contribute to and build learning throughout the students’ degree program.
Establishing learning outcomes in an academic program guides faculty to teach collectively toward the same goals. In this manner, faculty can use the degree program student learning outcomes to guide the design of their curriculum to achieve faculty-driven learning priorities.