What are student learning outcomes?

  • Student learning outcomes are measurable statements that articulate what students should know, be able to do, or value as a result of taking a course or completing a program.
  • These 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, 2004). 
  • Student learning outcomes are also often referred to as “learning outcomes”, “objectives”, “expected learning outcomes”, or “learning outcome statements”.

Sample Stony Brook Syllabi Exemplars with Measurable Learning Outcomes: 

Simply stated, student learning outcomes describe:

1.  What faculty members want students to know at the end of the course

2.  What faculty members want students to be able to do at the end of the course.

Learning outcomes have three major characteristics: 

1.  They specify an action by the students/learners that is observable

2.  They specify an action by the students/learners that is measurable

3.  They specify an action that is done by the students/learners (rather than the faculty members)

Why create student learning outcomes?

Creating student learning outcomes will make it easier for instructors to: 

  • Make hard decisions about selecting course content.
  • Design assessments that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills.
  • Design teaching strategies or learning activities that will help students develop their knowledge and skills.
  • Measure student learning accurately and effectively.

Having access to articulated student learning outcomes (in a syllabus, for example) helps students: 

  • Decide if the course is a good fit for their academic trajectory. 
  • Identify what they need to do to be successful in the course. 
  • Take ownership of how they progress. 
  • Be mindful of what they are learning 

When writing a measurable student learning outcome, it is important to:

  1. Focus_on_student_behavior
  2. Use simple, specific action verbs
  3. Select appropriate_assessment_methods
  4. State_desired_performance criteria

View Discipline Specific Examples of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) from other institutions 

Click here for additional Course Planning Worksheets and Resources



Cornell University, Center for Teaching Excellence. (2013, September 14). Setting Learning Outcomes. Retrieved from the Center for Teaching Excellence website

Osters, Sandi & Tiu, F. Simone. (2009). Writing Measurable Learning Outcomes. Retrieved from

University of Central Florida, Smith, L. Karen. Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning. (2012). Course Planning. Retrieved from the Karen L. Smith Faculty Center for Teaching & Learning website