Learning Outcomes 

Words of Wisdom

No man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.

— C. S. Lewis

Learning outcomes are measurable skills, knowledge, or attitudes students should gain from a course or an assignment. They should be clear both for a course and for an assignment. Ideally, assignments are structured so that students can build complex skills step by step. In reality, as they learn new skills, some of the older skills may temporarily, suffer. We commonly see this with grammar and other basic skills; as students learn new forms of writing or focus attention on difficult new content, their grammar may suffer. The best response is to encourage plenty of practice, so skills become ingrained, with editing and revision, for example, by having students work on drafts in class or by having early due dates for drafts that get formative feedback.

Learning Outcomes for Courses

Common, but by no means exclusive, goals for W or C courses would be to develop the ability to:

  • Communicate with various audiences (e.g., lay, expert, managerial, general public)

  • Think critically, or view ideas or events from different perspectives

  • Argue effectively for one side, or for a compromise position

  • Design documents for readability and usefulness

  • Learn to appreciate a subject aesthetically or ethically

  • Evaluate and compare events, texts, ideas, or objects

  • Express a personal or organizational stance

  • Critique a text, argument, object, or idea

Below are exemplary outcomes statements taken from W and C Course Syllabi.

Reading and Writing (Expected Outcome): Writing is process of practice and editing. For this class, at least 2,000 words of formal writing are required. The intent of the writing component of this professional experience is to facilitate and improve your ability to:
  •  Communicate clearly and effectively
  •  Demonstrate competence in usage of English grammar, mechanics, in the language specific to environmental professionals
  •  Write in a scientifically correct manner, including citations
This course is writing intensive and satisfies the writing component required by the University for the Nutritional Sciences major.  Good writing* is essential to effective communication and is inseparable from content.  Accurate facts written in an unorganized or unclear manner are wasted.  Therefore, writing quality will be considered as part of every written assignment’s final grade in this course.  A significant portion of this course will be devoted to giving you the opportunity to refine your own writing skills through class assignments.  Since this course satisfies a university “W” requirement for this major, students will not receive credit for this course without passing the writing components of the course. *By “good writing” I mean standard edited American English for mechanics (grammar, punctuation, spelling, word usage); clarity of organization and argument; tone appropriate to the audience; and accurate content.  Poorly written assignments will not be graded and will be returned for rewriting; deductions will be assessed.
Designated as a writing course, DCED 401 will fine tune writing skills through various graded and ungraded writing observations and assignments.  Through these assignments, the technical aspect of writing and critical thinking skills will be homed in on, expanding the student’s understanding of dance pedagogy.
Communication Assignments: As a communication-intensive (C) course, BIOL 388 incorporates extensive writing and oral communication assignments to demonstrate knowledge of course material and to reinforce learning of physiological principles. Therefore, the communication portion of the course will have four graded writing assignments (including an independent research proposal) and one oral presentation associated with the independent laboratory projects developed by students during the semester. Details of the writing assignments and oral presentation will be provided in the laboratory sessions.
In addition, as a "C" course, this course requires writing and public speaking relevant to our area of study. The learning outcomes for this course, which is designed to facilitate both knowledge and skill acquisition in both content as well as communication, include the following:
  • Develop a conceptual understanding of the key issues involved in selecting human resources in organizations.
  • Develop the knowledge and skills necessary for both creating and implementing employee selection systems in organizations.
  • Develop a strong value for evidence-based approaches to decision-making and their potential for improving the quality of employee selection procedures in organizations.
  • Demonstrate the ability to apply evidence-based approaches and professional standards to evaluate employee selection systems in organizations.
  • Improve writing, public speaking, teamwork, critical thinking, and discussion skills through course requirements and class activities.

Learning Outcomes for Assignments

Another way to view the knowledge/skills gained by communication is to consider what rhetoricians call aims, or an underlying purpose. Communicative acts may have various aims, including:

  • To explore (think from different perspectives, consider alternative views, create new perspectives)

  • To explain (explore underlying principles, demonstrate, or teach)

  • To persuade (argue for a position or stance, propose a course of action)

  • To express (make clear a stance, emotion, or identity)

  • To entertain

  • To evaluate (provide a critique or assessment)

  • To learn (rehearse information, synthesize information, or acquire new information)

A communicative act might have one of these aims (or a variation thereof) as a primary goal; on the other hand, some have multiple aims.

Rhetoricians sometimes classify communication according to modes, or types, which also provide a way of thinking about possible learning outcomes for assignments:

  • Exposition (Explanation) Description
  • Argument
  • Narration
  • Process (Steps or Stages)
  • Comparison/Contrast (Likeness/Difference)
  • Analysis
  • Definition (Categorical Proposition, or, x is y)
  • Cause/Effect (Consequences)
  • Analogy
  • Evaluation

Several modes may be present in a given document or speech, but one may dominate. One advantage of using the modes to develop learning outcomes is that many rhetoric texts provide help in writing based on the modes.

For example, the typical handbook will include sections on writing a "Comparison/Contrast" essay or an "Extended Definition"; some writing textbooks also provide samples of writing that primarily demonstrate one of these modes. A proposal might define a problem (definition mode); assert the consequences of inaction (cause/effect); or explain how a similar problem has been solved (analogy. The document's aim would primarily be to persuade, but it could also explain and perhaps evaluate.

Consider a possible series of assignments leading to a formal proposal:

Type of Document Purpose Mode
Brief oral presentation to class defining a problem Explore/ Explain Definition
Annotated bibliography investigating the current state of knowledge regarding the problem Explain/Learn/Explore Description
Letter to a person of authority explaining the consequences of acting or not acting to correct a problem Persuade Cause-Effect
Formal report to an audience capable of action, defining the problem and its current state, suggesting a solution, and arguing for its feasibility and its necessity Persuade Analogy/Cause-Effect


Additional Resources

Walvoord, Barbara, and Virginia Johnson-Anderson, "Making Assignments Worth Grading" in Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment, pp. 17-26 (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998).

Angelo, Thomas A. and K. Patricia Cross. "The Teaching Goals Inventory in Classroom Assessment Techniques. pp. 13-23 (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993).  

Bloom's Taxonomy and Webb's Depth of Knowledge, blog by Katherine Miller, 2018.

TAMU Undergraduate Student Learning Outcomes

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