Writing your student learning outcomes

The simplest approach to writing a learning outcome is to first generate the learning statement, then determine the action word, and finally add the opening phrase to complete the outcome. The following sections provide approaches to generating a list of essential learning statements for your program and illustrate how you might use Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy to determine your action words.

Writing the Learning Statement for a Learning Outcome: Sources of Ideas

Generating a list of learning statements for your program’s learning outcomes begins with an examination of your mission statement and learning goals. Here we review this process and provide a few additional sources of ideas for developing learning statements for your program’s learning outcomes.

  • Examining your mission statement and learning goals:
    • Your mission statement explains why your program exists and offers a holistic vision of the values and philosophy of the program. Program learning goals are drawn from the mission statement. Learning goals are broad statements that describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and beliefs that graduates of your program should possess.
    • Use the content of your goals to determine what specific learning you expect students to achieve. For example, if one of your learning goals says that graduates of the program will have strong communication skills, then you should write learning statements for both written and oral communication skills.
  • Look at what professional organizations in your discipline suggest:
    • Many disciplinary and professional organizations have created statements that define what graduates in the field should be able to do.
      • Note: Not every organization refers to these as learning outcomes; for example, they may use terms like learning goals or learning objectives. Just remember that you are looking for statements that describe what a student should know, be able to do, or value.
    • If your disciplinary or professional organization has written such statements, then you should tailor the suggested statements about learning to reflect your own curriculum.
    • Here are a few examples of professional organizations with statements about student learning:
    • The American History Association Task Force produced, “Internationalizing Student Learning Outcomes in History: A Report to the American Council on Education” (http://www.historians.org/teaching/ACE/Taskforcereport.cfm#outcomes).
    • The National Council of Teachers of English offers a list of “standards” that English majors should reach. While these are not written in the student learning outcome format, they serve as a good source for ideas. The standards can be found on their website:http://www.ncte.org/standards.
  • Engage faculty and students in your program in generating ideas for learning statements:
    • Asking the faculty and the students in your program to engage in conversations about what the curriculum prepares students to know, do, and value can help you to create a list of learning statements.
    • Engaging faculty and students in the process of developing student learning outcomes can have the benefit of helping to create ownership of and interest in the process of assessment.

Choosing an Action for Your Learning Outcomes: Using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Once you’ve generated a learning statement for an outcome, you then need to choose an action word to describe how students will demonstrate their accomplishment of the learning. One way to choose the action word is to think about the type of learning you want students to demonstrate. Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy can be helpful with this process as it provides a list of the major types of learning. The table below provides examples of action words for each major type of learning.


Type of Learning


Example Action Words


Recalling information

Recognize, name, retrieve, describe, list, define, identify, outline, reproduce


Explaining ideas or concepts

Explain, summarize, paraphrase, classify, interpret, distinguish, defend, discuss


Using information in another situation

Use, execute, carry out, implement, classify, solve, demonstrate, compute


Breaking information into parts to explore understandings and relationships

Analyze, organize, compare, deconstruct, dissect, differentiate, diagram, combine


Justifying a decision or course of action

Judge, critique, experiment, hypothesize, appraise, assess, justify


Generating new ideas, products, or ways of viewing things

Produce, design, construct, plan, invent, generate, transform, integrate


Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

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