Option 2: Crafting Course Outcomes

This pictures shows a hexagon to represent structure.A great deal has been written about what a learning outcome (Bloom, 1956; Allan, 1996; Hussey & Smith, 2002) is as well as the difference between a learning outcome and a course objective. Unfortunately there is not a great deal of consistency with the use of language when it comes to outcomes vs objectives or even goals. For the purpose of this resource (and the work that we do at the Teaching Centre) we are going to use the following definitions to describe the terms goals, objectives and learning outcomes (as identified by the Undergraduate Education and Academic Planning group at San Francisco State University):


This option gives you the opportunity to craft your own course outcomes. In this option you will do the following:


Goal – A goal is a broad definition of student competence. Examples of these goals include:

  • Students will be competent in critical questioning and analysis.
  • Students will have an appreciation of the necessity and difficulty of making ethnical choices.
  • Students will know how to make connections among apparently disparate forms of knowledge.



Objective – A course objective describes what a faculty member will cover in a course. They are generally less broad that goals and broader than student learning outcomes. Examples of objectives include:

  • Students will gain an understanding of the historical origins of art history.
  • Student will read and analyze seminal works in 20th Century American literature.
  • Students will study the major U.S. regulatory agencies.



Student Learning Outcome – A learning outcome describes what a student must be able to do at the conclusion of a course. When writing learning outcomes, it is helpful to use verbs that are measurable or that describe an observable action. Such verbs help faculty (and students) avoid misinterpretation. The best outcomes will include a description of the conditions (“when given x, you will be able to…”) and the acceptable performance level.

A few of the key points:

  •  Course objectives are often a description of what the Faculty member/instructor will cover in the course
  • Learning outcomes are student focused and written in such a way that they are measurable/observable

Some examples could be (taken from the University of Toronto resource on Examples of Learning Outcomes – https://teaching.utoronto.ca/teaching-support/course-design/developing-learning-outcomes/appendix-a-examples-of-learning-outcomes/:
By the end of this course students will be able to:
  • Identify the most frequently encountered endings for nouns, adjectives and verbs, as well as some of the more complicated points of grammar, such as aspect of the verb
  • Read basic material relating to current affairs using appropriate reference works, where necessary.
  • Make themselves understood in basic everyday communicative situations.

*retrieved from https://ueap.sfsu.edu/sites/default/files/assets/docs/student_learning_outcomes.pdf April 3rd, 2020.

Learning Taxonomies:

To write learning outcomes, we need to understand not only what we want our students to be able to demonstrate upon completion, but at which level we expect them to be able to complete it. Accordingly, we need a common language to identify possible levels of understanding. There are several educational taxonomies that will help us to find the language necessary to write these outcomes.

Bloom’s Taxonomy – The oldest and most commonly recognized taxonomy is Bloom’s Taxonomy – named after Benjamin Bloom in 1956. Bloom’s Taxonomy uses a tiered model of knowledge and skills with each higher level requiring prerequisite knowledge or skills from the levels below it. Here is a video that helps to explain and provide examples of applying Bloom’s taxonomy (4 minutes 46 seconds):



Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised)
– In 2000, authors Lorin Anderson and David Krathwohl published a book titled A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: a revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. In this book they make a case for updating the original work of Benjamin Bloom. This revised version updates some of the terminology that was originally used AND changes the order of the top two levels. This video will help to explain the revised taxonomy as well as providing some examples on how these would be applicable to online learning activities (9 minutes 5 seconds):



Here is a graphic that illustrates both the original Bloom’s Taxonomy and the revised version of 2000:


Bloom's Taxonomy and Bloom's Revised Taxonomy Compared
Image referenced from http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/HOTS_iosandroid.006.jpg

There are other several other taxonomies that might be of interest when thinking about how learning objectives can be written/framed. Some of the other prominent taxonomies are:

Writing Learning Outcomes:

The process of writing learning outcomes then becomes a matter of matching the level of skill/understanding that you expect your students to demonstrate with specific area of understanding and how you will expect them to be able to demonstrate this to you (and themselves). There are many resources that can be extremely helpful in writing outcomes, but probably one of the easiest to use (and most visual) is this one by Arizona State University.


Learning Objective Builder
Click the image above to access the Arizona State University Objective Builder Tool

By following the steps in their outcome (they use the term objective) builder, you can quickly write learner-centred outcomes for your class.

Additional Resources:

The following additional resources may be of interest but are not required:

If you would like feedback from peers and/or facilitators on any aspect of your syllabus or course outcomes, please feel free to share it in the Module Discussion Forum.


Allan, J., (2006). Learning outcomes in higher education, Studies in Higher Education, Vol. 21, Issue 1, pp 93-108.

Bloom, B., ed. (1956). Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Handbook 1 cognitive domain, London: Longman

Biggs, J. B., & Collis, K. F. (1982). Evaluating the quality of learning: The SOLO taxonomy (structure of the observed learning outcome). New York: Academic Press.

Fink, L. D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses (1st ed.). San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass.

Hussey, T., Smith, P. (2002). The Trouble with Learning Outcomes, Active Learning in Higher Education, 3(3), 220-233.

Wiggins, G. P., McTighe, J., & NetLibrary, I. (2005). Understanding by design (Expand 2nd ed.). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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