Writing Meaningful Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Perhaps the most important step in the assessment process is the determination of meaningful student learning outcomes (SLOs).  Without appropriate SLOs, it is difficult, if not impossible, to collect relevant or useful information about student learning that can be used for program improvement.

SLOs typically concern three broad types of student learning:

  1. Content knowledge or understanding (cognitive – what we want students to know)
  2. Abilities, skills, or competencies (behavioral – what we want students to be able to do)
  3. Values, dispositions, or attitudes (affective – what we want students to care about)

SLOs should be

  • Consistent with the program mission and goals
  • Comprehensive (i.e., collectively cover the main program goals)
  • Focused on student learning (not teaching or some other aspect of the program)
  • Clearly stated
  • Realistic (can potentially be achieved by a significant portion of students)
  • Measurable
  • Actionable (can be used for program improvement)

Writers of SLOs often encounter a version of the Goldilocks problem.  They must steer between SLOs that are too broad to be measurable or too narrow to be of much use for program improvement.  Although crafting useful SLOs can be challenging, it gets easier with practice.

For more detailed advice, please consult the following guides:

Writing Measurable Learning Outcomes(Sandi Oister and F. Simone Tui, Gavilan College)

Creating Good Student Learning Outcomes (Guilford College)

How to Write Program Objectives/Outcomes (University of Connecticut)

Writing Student Learning Outcomes (Laney College)

Guide for Writing Student Learning Outcomes (University of Florida)