SLOs Step By Step

Ready to write student learning outcomes for your courses? Inclusive teaching, learning, and assessment research affirms the usefulness of clear, transparent outcomes: the steps below will help you to write or revise your outcomes. You’ll also gain clarity as you align your course-level outcomes to assignments, which will help you to see how students will demonstrate the outcomes. Vertical alignment also helps in the other direction: when you align to your program outcomes, you can see how your course builds on prior learning and prepares students for their next challenges. After crafting your outcomes and inviting colleagues to offer feedback, consider asking your students for their perspectives, so your outcomes are as clear as possible for your central audience.

Suggested Steps

  1. Begin with a time-framed statement, like “After completing this course (or program), students will be able to …”,
  2. Next, specify your “desired results”* with an action learning verb. Consult a learning taxonomy for help.
  3. Identify the concept or skill.
  4. Identify the action or deliverable where students will demonstrate their learning. (Outcomes do not always include this element, but this step will help you clarify your outcomes.)
  5. Write your outcome and read it out loud, revise as needed, return to the learning taxonomies to consider if the level of learning works well for your “desired results.”* Revise and clarify as needed.
  6. Align to the student work. Identify the deliverable(s) (whether or not it appears in your outcome), that is, the actual tasks students will undertake to build the learning and then demonstrate it. For example, you might create a series of reading assignments and position papers leading to a research paper, presentation, or project. Do the learning experiences align to the outcome? If not, will you revise the outcome(s)? Or will you revise the learning design?
  7. Align to the program outcomes. See the Outcome Alignment Worksheet for help. Your program will likely have an assessment plan and reports that include the outcomes and (may include) a curriculum map to help you align.
  8. Consider how your course outcome(s) align to the UMBC institutional outcomes, the Functional Competencies.
  9. Share your outcomes with colleagues. Ask them to pretend to be students like yours and to offer feedback on how to clarify the outcome further. Discuss how the outcomes align to the program and institutional outcomes.
  10. Ask students to read the outcomes and explain in their own words what they mean. Clarify and repeat.
Verb + Concept + by Action or deliverable
The key elements of a student learning outcome (SLO)–Action Learning Verb + Concept/Skill + By Action or Deliverable–appear in the illustration above. Add a time-framed statement like “After completing this course, students will be able to…” at the beginning of your outcome list, then work through the steps above.

*See our backward design page that explains this planning process including formulating “desired results.”


Return to the main Student Learning Outcomes page here.

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