Why is it important to have “learning outcomes” identified for my course?

Learning outcomes provide transparency for your students and help you to create an aligned course design.

At the most basic level, learning outcomes let the students know why they are taking the course and what they are expected to learn. But learning outcomes are also an important step for an instructor as part of course design, because without clearly defined learning outcomes it is challenging to create a course that has strong and intentional alignment in what the students are learning, practicing, and being assessed on during the quarter.  The practice of developing and utilizing learning outcomes also allows faculty and instructors to evaluate potential strengths and weaknesses of a course – such as recognizing that the learning outcomes you have planned are in fact too rigorous to too basic for your students. Identifying which learning outcomes were achieved or not achieved by your students will provide insight into how you can adjust your teaching each quarter.

Learning outcomes support the intentional development and alignment of learning across multiple courses within a program/major.

At a curricular planning level, developing clear learning outcomes across courses or major pathways provides for a more cohesive experience and ensures that students have equal prerequisite knowledge needed as they move through their undergraduate experience.

It is an accreditation requirement to include learning outcomes in your syllabus.

The WASC Senior College and University Commission outlines in their handbook for accreditation that learning outcomes are included in course syllabi:

Standard 2.4: The institution’s student learning outcomes and standards of performance are developed by faculty and widely shared among faculty, students, staff, and (where appropriate) external stakeholders. The institution’s faculty take collective responsibility for establishing appropriate standards of performance and demonstrating through assessment achievement of these standards.

GUIDELINE: Student learning outcomes are reflected in the course syllabi.

More about learning outcomes:

In the following video from the CIRTL online course “Introduction to STEM Teaching”,  Dr. Stephanie Chasteen and others from University of Colorado Boulder provide their definitions of learning goals and outcomes. They go on to discuss the differences between learning outcomes and points on a syllabus. To view the full module with additional information about backwards design and writing learning outcomes, click here.