Overview of Learning Outcomes
What are learning outcomes (LOs)?
Learning outcomes are measurable statements that describe significant knowledge or skills students should learn or be able to demonstrate upon completion of a course or program. Learning outcomes can be thought of as a destination and faculty’s teaching pedagogy as the route taken to get students there. The focus of learning outcomes is on the application of knowledge and skills.
Four Types of Learning Outcomes
|Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs)||ILOs represent broad categories of competencies. Students achieve outcomes, regardless of academic program of study, upon completion of Chaffey College’s certificate or degree programs.|
|Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)||Students achieve outcomes upon completion of their program.|
|Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs)||Students achieve outcomes upon completion of a course.|
|Student Support Outcomes (SSOs)||Students achieve outcomes after a service or academic support resource or participating in a student support program.|
What is the difference between program goals and learning objectives?
The terms are often used interchangeably, but they do have distinct differences. Program goals are long-term, broad statements of what students should learn, understand, value, and appreciate as a result of completing a program, and goals should directly relate to a mission statement. Conversely, learning objectives are short-term, precise statements that describe what faculty plan on covering in a learning experience. While program goals may be difficult or impracticable to measure, learning objectives are observable and measurable. Multiple learning objectives are typically developed to reach one program goal.
How are learning outcomes different from program goals and learning objectives?
The table below shows similarities and differences between program goals, learning objectives, and learning outcomes.
|Program Goals||Learning Objectives||Learning Outcomes|
What does the program want to accomplish?
What specific area does an instructor intend to cover by the end of a learning activity?
What is the essential learning that students should know or be able to demonstrate after the completion of a course
|Measurement||May not be measurable or difficult to measure||Measurable||Measurable
|General enough to incorporate important skills and learning but specific enough to be measurable|
Short-term: end of the semester
Medium- to long-term: end of a program (one-year certificate, degree)
- Goals are too general to guide assessment, planning, and program decisions, whereas
learning outcomes provide evidence that puts student learning at the forefront of
institutional and program planning. Assessment of learning outcomes is used to make
curriculum changes and program improvement.
- Learning objectives focus on the input of the course: the learning process. Learning outcomes focus on the output of the course or program: the end product.
Alignment of Learning Outcomes
INSTRUCTIONAL PROGRAMS: Learning Outcomes, also known as student learning outcomes (SLOs), should align across three levels: institutional, program, and course.
Broad categories of competencies
Students achieve outcomes, regardless of academic program of study, upon completion of Chaffey College’s certificate or degree programs.
PLOs should align with at least one ILO
Students achieve outcomes upon completion of their program
CLOs should align with PLOs
Students achieve outcomes upon completion of a course.
Putting It All Together
The following example is taken from the Communication Studies discipline.
|Type of Learning Outcome /
Institutional LOs: What is the purpose of the college? What skills or knowledge should every Chaffey College graduate have acquired while attending classes here?
ILO: Communication—Students will practice effective communication and comprehension skills and strategies.
|Program LOs: What is the purpose of your program? What skills or knowledge do you expect students who take multiple courses in the program to come away with? What are the consistent themes that carry over from course to course? How do these themes relate to our institutional goals?||
Program: Communication Studies
Course LOs: What is the purpose of the course? What particular skills or knowledge does it attempt to communicate? What do you expect students who complete the course to have learned? How does this relate to the overall content and purpose of your program?
Course: Fundamentals of Effective Speaking
|Course objectives are specific statements about content or material being taught in a course and can be considered the “nuts and bolts” of the course. Objectives are the means, not the ends. Course LOs are statements about significant and essential learning that has occurred as a result of taking a course and may include assessing multiple courses. Course LOs can be described as what we expect students to do with the “nuts and bolts” after they leave the course.||
Course: Fundamentals of Effective Speaking
The following example is taken from the Biological Sciences from Chaffey College.
ILO: Critical Thinking and Information Competency—Students will demonstrate critical thinking skills in problem solving across the disciplines and in daily life.
PLO: Upon completing the AS-T in Biological Sciences, student will apply the self-correcting and interdisciplinary nature of science to structure/function relationships and evolutionary process in living systems.
Course: Evolutionary Ecology
CLO: Upon successful completion of BIOL-63, students will explain structural and functional relationships among organisms and their environments, on local to global scales.
- Identify and differentiate various symbiotic relationships.
- Predict the effect of loss of a keystone species on ecosystem stability.
- Explain the importance of stable biomass of phytoplankton in an aquatic ecosystem.