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.
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
To ensure that all of these components are being addressed, a PLO worksheet can be downloaded here.
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:
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
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
Synthesize relevant theory and past research on a business issue or challenge
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
Determine the appropriate qualitative or quantitative methods that will address research questions
Develop a research study that applies quantitative research methods to collect, organize, and analyze data to address an applied research question
Develop a research study that applies qualitative research methods to collect, organize, and analyze data to address an applied research question
- Write an original research manuscript suitable for publication in practitioner and/or academic journals
- Present research in a professional conference setting, effectively communicating research findings
- Evaluate the impact of ethical factors in a complex business or societal environment
- Devise innovative and value-creating products, processes, or organizational forms
- Analyze the implications of economic, environmental, technological, legal and regulatory factors on global business practice
- 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
- Bring theory and research together to analyze a business challenge
- Apply theory, models, and methods in relevant contexts
Goal 2: Demonstrate mastery of research methods
- Determine the appropriate methods that will address research questions
- Develop a research study that applies quantitative research methods
- Develop a research study that applies qualitative research methods
Goal 3: Demonstrate the ability to communicate to audiences within an academic setting
- Write an original research manuscript suitable
- Present research in a professional conference setting
Goal 4: Identify the nature of applied research
- Demonstrate knowledge of the impact of ethics in a business or societal environment
Devise new products, processes, or organizational forms
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.