Articulate Goals for Student Learning

Teacher articulating goals

What do you expect students to learn?

Articulate goals for student learning 

The process of developing learning outcomes invites faculty to reflect on, and then translate, that embodied disciplinary knowledge into clear expectations for students in their majors. We wouldn't want to leave something as important as student learning and success to guesswork.  


Effective Goals for Learning: 

  • Represent intentional alignment between course, program, and campus goals for learning. 
  • Describe the knowledge, skills, and abilities you expect students to display at the end of the course or program. 
  • Focus on what students will DO (NOT what the course covers or program includes).

Educational equity depends on individual and collective capacity to reflect on, and clearly articulate, learning goals for students.

  • Align program and course goals 
  • Instructors express goals for student learning through Course Learning Outcomes, which derive from undergraduate program goals for learning (Program Learning Outcomes), which describe the focused and discipline-specific skills, knowledge, and abilities expected of students matriculating from an individual program or major. Program goals for learning ideally reflect the UC Davis Campus Goals for Undergraduate Learners, which express our broadest goals for student learning.

NOTE: Goals for learning represent what you hope students will accomplish. Learning outcomes are what you will measure.

  • Articulate goals that are both aspirational and achievable
  • Goals for learning should describe our highest expectations for UC Davis graduates; they must also be achievable within a given timeframe and context. 

    While a program might expect learners to "communicate [disciplinary] knowledge effectively through written, visual and/or oral forms appropriate to purpose and audience," the corresponding course goal is more specific and more likely to be achievable in a ten-week term. For example: Students will deliver a conference-style presentation based on analyses of [course content].
  • Make learning goals transparent
  • Effective learning outcomes statements clarify expectations through precise word choice. To increase transparency, use language which highlights the observable behaviors or skills students will display (e.g., evaluate, critique, produce, design). What does "understanding" look like? How do we know if a student "knows" something? What does "think critically" or "communicate effectively" look or sound like? 

A useful resource for effectively describing your expectations for student learning is the revised Bloom's Taxonomy