Writing Course Learning Outcomes (CLO)
Key Points
 Aim for no more than 5-7 CLOs per course
 Clear and concise language, can be understood by students
 Contains an active verb (consult Blooms and other taxonomies)
http://edweb.sdsu.edu/courses/EDTEC470/sp09/5/bloomstaxanomy.html
 Should be measurable (avoid verbs like “understand”,” know”, “appreciate”, “be
familiar with” which are not observable and cannot be measured )
 Includes a context/reason (describes what you envision students doing ”after”
and “outside” this academic experience) and a criterion indicating the required
standard
 Addresses appropriate learning, performance levels for the position within the
program (e.g. Semester 1 starts with lower levels of learning (consult levels of
learning in Blooms and other taxonomies), for the time and resources available
and for the requirements of the vocation
 Are measurable and performance based
 Are aligned to assessments: assessments use same domain (cognitive,
skills/abilities or affective) and level of learning as that stated by the learning
outcome
Constructing your Course Learning Outcome (CLO)
At the start of each CLO there is the following statement stem: At the conclusion of this
course, you will be able to:
Each CLO is listed after the statement stem using this formula:
Do something for a reason or in a given context according to a certain standard or
performance criteria.
For example:
1. Design marketing communication materials to meet the advertising needs of
clients using industry standard technology.
2. Apply theoretical concepts of growth and development when working with
individuals and families in the community as required by the public health
regulations
Common Errors in Writing Learning Outcomes:
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Pitfall
written to reflect specific content
written as a process not an outcome
not realistic
too narrow and so not transferable
inconsequential, do not describe significant leaning
not verifiable
dependent on the way the material is taught or on the environment in which it occurs
Unacceptable
Improved Outcome
Written to reflect specific
content
Describe the levels of
Maslow’s Hierarchy of
Needs
Use theories of motivation
to interpret human behavior
in non-stressful situations
Not written as an outcome
but as a goal or a process
Appreciate the importance
of personal responsibility in
mature human sexuality
Explain clearly the
relationship between
personal values and
attitudes and mature
sexuality
Not realistic
List the chemical symbol
and valencies of all the
known elements.
Write equations to
represent chemical
reactions that maintain acid
base balance
Not verfiable
Improve his or her
understanding of the laws
of electricity
Use the laws of electricity to
explain the viability of
particular circuitry in
specific applications
Too narrow so not
transferable
Describe the functions of
MS Word 2010
Use word-processing
software to prepare reports
and correspondence.
Describes a specific
assessment in the course
rather than transferable
learning applicable in a
variety of work and/or life
contexts.
Produce a collection of
community resources for
promoting positive family
functioning
Select appropriate
community resources to
promote family functioning
Summary
Faculty, students, or other stakeholders (e.g. MTCU, parents, community partners, and
industry) should be able to read each CLO and understand what a student must do to
pass a course. The CLO statement should clearly state what would be considered an
acceptable level of performance to pass a course. The CLOs should be verifiable and
measured using one of the assessments listed in the Course Outline.
Verbs to avoid when writing CLOs.
Since outcomes must be measurable it is important that we choose action words that
can be measured. Here are some verbs to avoid:
The Sinister Sixteen Verbs (from Seneca’s Centre for Academic Excellence)
understand
know
be aware of
value
appreciate
see
be conscious of
get
comprehend
accept
learn
apprehend
grasp
have knowledge of
perceive
be familiar with
All of these are internal. In other words, they aren’t public and can’t be observed. You
can never really know whether someone understands a concept, because you can’t see
into the person’s mind. All we can assess are public behaviours that we are willing to
accept as evidence of understanding. We have to use verbs that can be measured..
A well-written learning outcome:
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States clear expectations so that learners know what they have to do to achieve
the outcome
Is written from the perspective of what the learner does, not what the professor
does
Begins with an action verb which states ONE performance
Can be measured — by an assignment, test, project, exam
Never begins with vague verbs such as ‘know’ ‘appreciate’ ‘understand’ and
‘demonstrate’ or any of the sinister sixteen verbs and phrases
Has a clear answer to the question – “How will I and the students know that this
outcome has been achieved? “
Is aligned with the program standards
Is free of ambiguous words and phrases
Can be achieved within the time frame of the semester/experience/workshop
Does not dictate content, teaching activities nor assessment
Elements of Performance
The Course Learning Outcomes may have Elements of Performance listed below each
learning outcome. The Elements of Performance give more detail and list the stepping
stones or embedded skills, knowledge or attitudes requited to achieving the course
learning outcome. For examples of elements of performance on a broader level consult
the provincial standards for your program. Each Vocational Learning Outcomes(VLO)
lists Elements of Performance underneath each VLO.
Sample Action Words for Stating Learning Objectives
Listed by Domain and Levels of Learning
C
Ideas
Arrange
Order
Connections
Apply
Illustrate
Extensions
Analyze
O
Cite
Outline
Assemble
Infer
Appraise
Explain
G
N
I
T
I
V
E
Classify
Paraphrase
Calculate
Interpret
Argue
Formulate
Convert
Quote
Change
Manipulate
Arrange
Generate
Copy
Recall
Choose
Modify
Assemble
Illustrate
Define
Recite
Compute
Operate
Assess
Infer
Describe
Record
Defend
Practise
Categorize
Inspect
Discuss
Relate
Demonstrate
Predict
Choose
Interpret
Distinguish
Reproduce
Discover
Prepare
Combine
Judge
Duplicate
Repeat
Draft
Produce
Compare
Justify
Explain
Report
Dramatize
Relate
Compose
Manage
Express
Respond
Draw
Schedule
Conclude
Manipulate
Extend
Restate
Employ
Select
Construct
Modify
Give Example
Review
Estimate
Show
Contrast
Organize
Identify
Rewrite
Explain
Sketch
Convert
Originate
Indicate
Specify
Extend
Use
Create
Plan
Label
Summarize
Criticize
Predict
List
Tell
Debate
Prepare
Locate
Translate
Defend
Propose
Match
Underline
Devise
Question
Diagram
Rate
Mate
Name
Differentiate
Relate
Discriminate
Reorganize
Distinguish
Score
Estimate
Select
Evaluate
Solve
Examine
Support
Experiment
Test
Value
Write
A
Ideas
Accept
Locate
Connections
Adhere
Initiate
Extensions
Act
Integrate
F
Accumulate
Name
Affirm
Invite
Adapt
Mediate
F
Ask
Point to
Approve
Join
Change
Organize
E
Describe
Respond to
Assist
Justify
Defend
Revise
C
Follow
Select
Choose
Perform
Display
Solve
T
Give
Sensitive to
Commend
Practise
Influence
Verify
I
Identify
Use
Complete
Propose
V
Comply
Select
E
Conform
Share
Describe
Study
Discuss
Subscribe to
Follow
Work
Form
P
Ideas
Complete
Press
Connections
Activate
Load
Extensions
Adapt
Fix
S
Demonstrate
Pull
Adjust
Locate
Combine
Generate
Y
Distinguish
Push
Assemble
Loosen
Compose
Illustrate
C
Hear
See
Build
Manipulate
Construct
Modify
H
Identify
Select
Calibrate
Measure
Convert
Organize
O
Locate
Set up
Close
Open
Create
Plan
M
Manipulate
Show
Construct
Operate
Design
Repair
O
Move
Sort
Copy
Perform
Devise
Service
T
Pick up
Specify
Demonstrate
Remove
Diagram
O
Point to
Touch
Disassemble
Replace
R
Practise
Transport
Disconnect
Rotate
Draw
Select
Duplicate
Set
Execute
Slide
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Checklist for Writing Course Learning Outcomes and Samples