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The Art of Writing Learning Outcomes [CONCEPTS]

August 31, 2010

Photo by Karen Indrehus on Flickr.

Writing is often prescribed as a way of thinking through a problem, whether personal or academic. We keep diaries and journals, and write many drafts of papers, on our way to deeper understanding.

In many ways, crafting well-written learning outcomes for your course or program is a similar approach.

Most of us have a good idea what we’d like the ideal result of our courses and programs to be. The assessment process, however, pushes us to make that idea specific. The writing of learning outcomes should not be considered a task to be checked off a list of assessment plan components or a gap to be filled in a syllabus template. It’s instead an opportunity to engage in just the kind of thinking process that we use in writing other documents: a process that leads to greater clarity and to more powerful communication with our audience.

Taking the time to write better learning outcomes can help you understand what exactly your own goals are, both as an instructor and as a program. When you know what you want students to achieve, they’ll probably better understand those outcomes and strive to achieve them, and you’ll be more likely and better equipped to find evidence of their learning through precise assessment techniques.

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