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Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Course Level Outcomes


There are many reasons to identify course level learning outcomes:

  • to help students understand the course expectations
  • to help clarify key areas to focus instructional time and resources
  • to help faculty teaching multiple sections of the same course build consistency
  • to help clarify how the course fits in with the overall degree, major or program goals

How To:

Developing course level learning outcomes is a reflective process, offering faculty members an opportunity to decide the most important “take aways” from the course for students.  Generally, there will be 4-6 (more or less) key concepts around which the course curriculum is structured.  A time-tested formula for writing course level learning objectives is:

“By the end of this course, my students will be able to [BLOOM’s TAXONOMY ACTION VERB] about/with [KEY CONCEPT]

EXAMPLE:  By the end of this course, my students will be able to evaluate the credibility of sources found on the internet.
Bloom’s Action Verb: “Evaluate” from the learning domain/level “Evaluating”
Key Concept: Credibility of internet resources.

Bloom’s Taxonomy describes learning domains, giving a visual representation of how a student may develop from “lower order” knowledge/skills to “higher order” knowledge/skills.  For example, it is easier to remember than to understand; easier to understand than to apply; easier to apply than analyze; etc.

When thinking about course level learning outcomes, you can use the “action verb” that correlates with the level of learning you expect your students to achieve.

Typically, lower level or introductory courses are going to focus on the lower level cognitive learning levels and upper-level courses will move students into higher level thinking.  For example, it would be unreasonable to expect a freshman to create new work in the field (a higher level skill) without the requisite foundational level skills and knowledge in place.  Likewise, graduate students might feel unchallenged if asked to simply remember facts (a lower level skill) rather than evaluate, create or design (all higher level skills).

BLOOM’s TAXONOMYadapted from: Old Dominion University

Points to Remember:

  • 4-6 outcomes per course is just a guideline; every course varies as to how many outcomes capture the key concepts relayed in the course
  • The course outcomes should be general enough to capture the “big picture” of the course, but specific enough that they are still meaningful.
  • You may wish to adjust your course outcomes after a semester or two.  Tweaking of outcomes is an inevitable part of the process.
  • If there are multiple instructors teaching different sections of the same course, it is helpful to collaborate and come to an agreement on the course outcomes.  Remember, each instructor can individuate the ways in which students will achieve those outcomes but the outcomes themselves should be consistent across sections.
  • Keep the outcomes focused on what the student will learn from the course rather than what you, as the faculty member, will present, teach or instruct.


Feel free to contact OIE with any questions: oie@rice.edu.