How to Write Program Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes Overview

Program Learning Outcomes are measurable expectations or anticipated outcomes. A comprehensive and well developed list can provide information about student learning, curriculum and teaching. Assessing or measuring learning outcomes can inform the institution about the educational environment. Learning outcomes are measured at various points during the educational experience. The degree to which outcomes are achieved will shape curricular planning and resource decision making. A culture of assessment enhances the ability to meet the changing needs of students and the University.

Writing PLOs

Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) are an essential element of learning-centered institutions. By stating clearly the outcome that occurs as a result of the education, institutions and programs become better positioned for using techniques and pedagogies that are effective for advancing student learning.'

PLOs are statements that specify what students will know or be able to do as a result of an activity and are expressed as knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values. They should be observable (and when appropriate measurable). They should be clearly written and easily understood by faculty, students, staff, administrators, and external constituencies. Each set of outcomes should be comprehensive, coherent, and contextualized for a specific discipline.

To ensure that all of these components are being addressed, a PLO worksheet can be downloaded here.

Dos:

  • Use simple language and be specific, clear, and concise.

  • Ensure that the learning outcome is demonstrable and measurable.

  • Learning outcomes should align with the mission and vision of Pepperdine and with any requirements put forth by WSCUC and AACSB.

  • Use Bloom's Taxonomy:

Bloom's Taxonomy

Use of action verbs from Bloom's Taxonomy help to ensure that a student learning outcome is measurable.

Bloom's Taxonomy is a hierarchical design of ways of thinking (action or performance verbs) that classifies learning or cognition into six levels; categorized from less to more complex (Suskie, 2009).


Level 1 – Remember
Level 2 – Understand
Level 3 – Apply
Level 4 – Analyze
Level 5 – Evaluate
Level 6 – Create

Action verbs:

Remember Understand

Apply Analyze Evaluate Create
Acknowledge
Activate
Arrange
Define
Describe
Identify
Infer
List
Match
Name
Outline
Recall
Recite
Reconcile
Recount
Rectify
Reenact
Reorganize
Reproduce
Retrieve
State
Write
Ascertain
Assert
Classify
Decipher
Decode
Deconstruct
Deduce
Estimate
Explain
Infer
Label
Mimic
Model
Organize
Paraphrase
Pinpoint
Predict
Simplify
Summarize
Validate
Verify
Advise
Advocate
Apply
Articulate
Assert
Consult
Convince
Critique
Defend
Dictate
Discuss
Draft
Ensure
Illustrate
Improve
Improvise
Integrate
Judge
Lead
Persuade
Present
Produce
Solve
Use
Analogize
Analyze
Argue
Breakdown
Categorize
Challenge
Change
Collect
Compare
Contrast
Cross-Examine
Demonstrate
Differentiate
Distinguish
Examine
Hypothesize
Inspect
Modify
Predict
Project
Relate
Revise
Qualify
Quantify
Write
Adapt
Appraise
Argue
Assess
Categorize
Collaborate
Compare
Critique
Derive
Detect
Determine
Evaluate
Execute
Explain
Gather
Hypothesize
Incorporate
Justify
Measure
Relate
Simulate
Solve
Strategize
Test
Troubleshoot
Value
Assign
Assemble
Cite
Compile
Compose
Construct
Create
Customize
Depict
Design
Develop
Devise
Discover
Engineer
Establish
Forecast
Formulate
Generate
Invent
Propose
Reconstruct
Synthesize
Tailor
Transform

Examples of Good PLOs

Goal 1: Demonstrate learning of theoretically-grounded and methodologically-sound research skills that provide the foundation for impactful, practice-focused research

  1. Synthesize relevant theory and past research on a business issue or challenge

  2. Apply and/or develop theory, models, and methods in new, practice-relevant contexts

Goal 2: Demonstrate mastery of quantitative and qualitative research methods oriented to applied research

  1. Determine the appropriate qualitative or quantitative methods that will address research questions

  2. Develop a research study that applies quantitative research methods to collect, organize, and analyze data to address an applied research question

  3. Develop a research study that applies qualitative research methods to collect, organize, and analyze data to address an applied research question 

Goal 3: Demonstrate the ability to disseminate research by effectively communicating to audiences within an applied academic setting
  1. Write an original research manuscript suitable for publication in practitioner and/or academic journals
  2. Present research in a professional conference setting, effectively communicating research findings
Goal 4: Identify the integrative nature of applied research, with specific consideration of ethics, innovation, and global factors
  1. Evaluate the impact of ethical factors in a complex business or societal environment
  2. Devise innovative and value-creating products, processes, or organizational forms
  3. Analyze the implications of economic, environmental, technological, legal and regulatory factors on global business practice

Don'ts:

  • Do not use the same action verb for every learning outcome - refer to the substantial list of additional action verbs provided above when stuck.
  • Do not try to combine multiple ideas into one single outcome. This is referred to as "double-barrel" statements. One outcome should describe only one learning concept.
  • Avoid making learning outcomes sound aspirational rather than obtainable.

Examples of Bad PLOs:

Goal 1: Demonstrate learning of skills that provide the foundation for impactful research

  1. Bring theory and research together to analyze a business challenge
  2. Apply theory, models, and methods in relevant contexts

Goal 2: Demonstrate mastery of research methods

  1. Determine the appropriate methods that will address research questions
  2. Develop a research study that applies quantitative research methods
  3. Develop a research study that applies qualitative research methods

Goal 3: Demonstrate the ability to communicate to audiences within an academic setting

  1. Write an original research manuscript suitable
  2. Present research in a professional conference setting

Goal 4: Identify the nature of applied research

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of the impact of ethics in a business or societal environment
  2. Devise new products, processes, or organizational forms

  3. Analyze the implications of several environmental factors on global business practice

Information on this page was adopted from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness at Pepperdine University, the WSCUC Assessment 101 Workshop facilitated by Monica Stitt-Bergh and Su Swarat, and Linda Suskie's Assessing Student Learning.