Learning outcomes describe what learners will be able to knowdo and value after a learning experience.  They clearly explain the knowledgeskills, and attitudes students will gain through a course.

It is crucial to have measurable learning outcomes listed on the course outline, as they communicate expectations to the learner and help guide the instructor.

SMART Learning Outcomes


The diagram above illustrates the five key principles in designing learning outcomes.  They must be specific and clear, instructors must be able to measure successful completion of an outcome, and learners must be able to achieve them.  Learning outcomes should also be relevant to the course and achievable  within the time period allotted.

Making Connections

Once the curriculum team decides the learning outcomes for each lesson, they must decide how students will demonstrate their learning (assessment).
Next, they consider how to prepare learners for the assessments (learning activities).

It’s crucial that there are clear connections between the outcomes, activities, and assessments.

Connecting to Activities & Assessments

​Instructional designers often use Bloom’s Taxonomy to help write learning outcomes. The graphic below lists the possible verbs to use in a learning outcome, as well as examples of activities and/or assessments.


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See also Bloom’s Taxonomy Teacher Planning Kit for great key words and questions for writing learning outcomes.


Wording Matters!

The student will be able to understand…


When we say the student will understandsomething, it’s pretty vague.  How will they understand it?  To what level or depth?  How will they prove their understanding?

The image below illustrates the facets of understanding one may have.  As instructors, our job is to have clear learning outcomes that explain the level of understanding we are looking for as we assess our students.

Wiggins & McTighe define understanding as being able to “teach it, use it, prove it, connect it, explain it, defend it, [and] read between the lines” (82).

As you write your outcomes, be clear on how students will demonstrate their understanding (by explaining, etc.).  Try to avoid the word understand.  It seems to be the default verbs for many outcomes – but go deeper!  To what level of understanding are you aiming for?!

Hint: Look at your assessment instructions!  You often use specific and measurable verbs to describe what you want students to do (identify, describe, analyze, discuss, create, etc.).


Feel free to check out the following resources on developing meaningful learning outcomes: