Outcomes vs. Objectives


Outcomes are an observable measureable skill or body of knowledge which a student should be able to demonstrate upon successful completion of a course. Each outcome should be specific, measureable, and written using behavioral verbs. Outcomes require higher level thinking which can be observed as a skill or a behavior. Outcomes are assessed to show what the student can do upon completion of the course. Outcomes guide teaching, learning, and assessment.

Examples of course outcomes:

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Summarize reasons to write persuasively.
  • Explain what constitutes effective management in a business environment.
  • Analyze an issue or trend that helped to shape the criminal justice profession.


Objectives state the purpose and goals of the course. Objectives are the content-specific knowledge and/or skills that enable a student to engage in the subject. They include knowledge-based content such as definitions, concepts, themes and facts. Objectives help create focus for the instructor and the learners.

Examples of course objectives:

  • Students will gain familiarity with learning approaches connected to persuasive writing.
  • Students will be acquainted with various types of business environments and current theories about what constitutes effective management in those environments.
  • Students will explore moral, ethical and professional issues that are encountered in the criminal justice profession.

Writing Learning Outcomes

Action Verb + Description of Content Knowledge or Skills

1. Begin with a measurable action verb. 

2. Follow with a description of content knowledge or skill.

Best Practices:

Use Blooms Taxonomy which identifies six level of measurable educational outcomes.

  • Avoid broad terms such as learn, understand, appreciate, and demonstrate knowledge. These terms are not specific enough to measure.


  • Select the highest level verb. Attainment of lower level verbs are assumed.

    • Outcome Example: Define and critique art movements from the Renaissance. If a student can critique (a high level on Bloom’s aligned with justifying a stand or a decision), then it is assumed that a student can define (at the lowest level on Bloom’s aligned with recall). Therefore, only Critique is needed in the outcome.


  • Select or instead of and.

    • It is recommended to select or instead of and.  When a list is provided in an outcome connected with “and” all items are expected to be assessed.  This means the one outcome may actually be 10 or more outcomes in one written statement.
    • Outcome Example: Analyze aesthetic, social, cultural, and historical art movements from prehistory through medieval time periods
      • This is actually 4 or more outcomes. 
      • The way this is written it is expected that faculty will assess if students are able to:
        • Analyze aesthetic art movements from prehistoric through medieval time periods
        • Analyze social art movements from prehistoric through medieval time period
        • Analyze cultural art movements from prehistoric through medieval time periods
        • Analyze historical art movements from prehistoric through medieval time period.
  • The or provides freedom from assessing every attribute of a multiple outcome.
Benefits of Learning Outcomes

Assists with: 

  • Developing instructional strategy
  • Selecting instructional materials
  • Constructing tests and other instruments for assessing and evaluating
  • Improving curriculum
Characteristics of Good Learning Outcomes
  • Measurable/Assessable
  • Clear to the student & instructor
  • Integrated, developmental, transferable
  • Use discipline-specific competencies/standards
  • “In order to” gets to the uniqueness and real world application of the learning
  • Use a variety of Bloom’s Taxonomy levels
Learning Outcomes as the Basis for Designing Courses

5 things to consider when designing courses

  1. What do you want the student to be able to do? (Outcome)
  2. What does the student need to know in order to do this well? (Curriculum)
  3. What activity will facilitate the learning? (Pedagogy)
  4. How will the student demonstrate the learning? (Assessment)
  5. How will I know the student has done this well? (Criteria)