Learning Outcomes

Definitions and Background

"Learning outcomes are statements of what a learner is expected to know, understand and/or be able to demonstrate after completion of a process of learning." (Writing and Using Learning Outcomes, p. 5)

This broad definition uses the term "process of learning" which describes everything from a single assignment to an entire degree. The definition that follows specifically describes course-level learning outcomes which are commonly found in a course syllabus.

"A formal statement of what students are expected to learn in a course. Expected learning outcomes statements refer to specific knowledge, practical skills, areas of professional development, attitudes, higher-order thinking skills, etc. that faculty members expect students to develop, learn, or master during a course." (Suskie, Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide, 2004)

Program-level learning outcomes describe learning that will be common to all graduates of a program. In Ontario, universities have adopted the Quality Assurance Framework which govern the approval and review of undergraduate programs. As part of that process, universities have agreed to incorporate the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV) Guidelines for University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations. For more on program and curriculum review, please see the Western Guide to Curriculum Review.

Online Resources

Writing Course Learning Outcomes (PDF) offers guidance in writing course-level learning outcomes and examples from four disciplines. Writing Course Learning Outcomes is used under the terms of a creative commons license from Open Learning and Educational Support, University of Guelph.

Honours and Masters Degree Benchmark Statements provides examples from UK program level learning outcome statements from over 50 disciplines.

Rubrics for Assessment of Learning Outcomes AACU Value Rubrics for the assessment of 15 fundamental undergraduate learning outcomes, including critical thinking, inquiry and analysis, quantitative literacy, teamwork, intercultural knowledge and competence, civic knowledge and engagement, as well as written and oral communication.

Writing and Using Learning Outcomes: a Practical Guide (PDF) is a summary of recent developments in curriculum design and offers a methodology for designing programs and courses in terms of learning outcomes.

Expanded Taxonomy of Learning (PDF) - A document listing learning verbs aligned with Bloom's Revised Taxonomy. Also includes suggestions related to student activities and appropriate assessments.

Revised Bloom's Taxomomy -  an interactive graphic that offers guidance on outcomes when combining the cognitive sophistication of the revised Bloom's taxonomy with discrete dimensions of knowledge.

Writing Learning Outcomes and Assessment Criteria in Art and Design (PDF) discusses the challenges of developing and assessing learning outcomes in creative disciplines.

Learning Outcomes Assessment A Practitioner's Handbook - A Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) publication, exploring "the theory, principles, reasons for and methods behind developing program-level learning outcomes; emerging developments in assessment; and tips and techniques to build institutional culture, increase faculty involvement and examine curriculum-embedded assessment."

Resources for Learning Outcomes Workshops from the Institute for Teaching Learning at the University of Sydney. See in particular their Guide to Writing Learning Outcomes (.doc) and their examples from faculties (xls).

Learning Outcomes: Learning Achieved by the End of a Course of Program from George Brown College has a summary of outcomes-based education and the development of learning outcomes.

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Course Design (Video)

Video use licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license, copyright Carleton University Educational Development Centre

Journal Articles

Hubball, H., & Burt, H. (2007). Learning Outcomes and Program-level Evaluation in a Four-year Undergraduate Pharmacy Curriculum. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 71(5).

Hubball, H., Gold, N., Mighty, J., & Britnell, J. (2007). Supporting the implementation of externally generated learning outcomes and learning-centered curriculum development: An integrated framework. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 2007(112), 93-105.

Simon, B., & Taylor, J. (2009). What is the Value of Course-Specific Learning Goals? Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov/Dec, 52-57.


Bresciani, M. (2006). Outcomes-Based Academic and Co-Curricular Program Review. Sterling, VA: Stylus.