Articulate Goals for Student Learning

What do you expect students to learn?

Articulate your goals for student learning 

Assessment Cycle Image -overvie


Effective Program Learning Outcomes: 

  • 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).
  • A commitment to educational equity requires that implicit expectations are made both explicit and transparent. 

Goals for student learning inform instructional practice

Expectations, both explicit and implicit, about students and student learning inform every instructional act (Anderson, Krathwohl, Airasian, Cruikshank, Mayer, Pintrich, Raths, & Wittrock, 2001). The UC Davis Campus Goals for Undergraduate Learners express our broadest goals for student learning. Undergraduate programs express their goals for student learning via Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs), which describe the focused and disciplinary-specific skills, knowledge, and abilities expected of students matriculating from an individual program or major. Instructors express goals for student learning through Course Learning Outcomes, which align to PLOs.

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

Ironically, faculty expertise does not always translate directly to clear goals for student learning. As experts, many faculty demonstrate their disciplinary mastery "so automatically and instinctively that they are no longer consciously aware of what they know or do” (Ambrose et al, 2010, p. 97)Unfortunately, the implicit nature of unconscious competence often creates unintended obstacles for students. (When you're an expert in your field, it's easy to forget what it was like to be a novice.) Asking yourself about your expectations for student learning may help bring your implicit expectations about disciplinary knowledge, skills, and abilities to an explicit level

What do YOU expect?

Do you remember what it was like when you were a novice in your field? How often do you reflect on your growth from novice to expert?

points along the continuum between novice and master

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.  

"Learning goals are promises. We are promising our students, their families, employers, and society that students who successfully a course, program, general education curriculum, or other learning experience can do the things we promise in our learning goals" (Suskie, 2018, p. 158).

Are the learning goals transparent?

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?   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).

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

Are the goals realistic?

Learning takes time.