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Articulating Student Learning Objectives


What are student learning objectives?

  • Student learning objectives are measurable statements that articulate what students should know, be able to do, or value as a result of taking a course or completing a program.
  • These statements refer to specific knowledge, practical skills, areas of professional development, attitudes, higher-order thinking skills, etc. that faculty members expect students to develop, learn, or master during a course (Suskie, 2004).
  • Student learning objectives are also often referred to as “learning outcomes”, “objectives”, “expected learning outcomes”, or “learning outcome statements”.
Learning outcomes have three major characteristics:
  1. They specify an action by the students/learners that is observable
  2. They specify an action by the students/learners that is measurable
  3. They specify an action that is done by the students/learners (rather than the faculty members)
Why create student learning outcomes?

Creating student learning outcomes will make it easier for instructors to:

  • Make hard decisions about selecting course content.
  • Design assessments that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
  • Design teaching strategies or learning activities that will help students develop their knowledge and skills.
  • Measure student learning accurately and effectively
Having access to articulated student learning outcomes (in a syllabus, for example) helps students:
  • Decide if the course is a good fit for their academic trajectory.
  • Identify what they need to do to be successful in the course.
  • Take ownership of how they progress.
  • Be mindful of what theya are learning.
When writing a measurable student learning outcome, it is important to:
  1. Focus on student behavior
  2. Use simple, specific action verbs
  3. Select appropriate assessment methods
  4. State desired performance criteria

For assistance on articulating your course objectives please view our Bloom's Taxonomy page

For assistance in aligning your course objectives to your activities and assessment tools, visit our Course Alignment page.


Cornell University, Center for Teaching Excellence. (2013, September 14). Setting Learning Outcomes. 

Osters, Sandi & Tiu, F. Simone. (2009). Writing Measurable Learning Outcomes. Retrieved fromUniversity of Central Florida, Smith, L. Karen. Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning. (2012). Course Planning. Retrieved from the Karen L. Smith Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning website

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