AGuide – Step 2

AGuide Navigation: Introduction | Step 1 | Step 2 | Step 3 | Step 4 | Step 5 | Step 6 | Step 7
Step 2: Create Student Learning Outcomes

See also Student Learning Outcomes in Program Assessment.

Once you have created your program purpose and goals, the next step is to create Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) for each goal. Think about what a student should know or be able to demonstrate upon his/her completion of your program, keeping in mind you are going to have to come up with a way to measure that it is happening. Also keep in mind that you want at least one of the measures to be direct rather than indirect (refer to Step 3 in this handbook for direct v. indirect measures). SLOs are stated operationally and describe the observable evidence of a student’s knowledge, skill, ability, attitude, or disposition. State clearly each outcome you are seeking: How would you recognize it? What does it look like? What will the student be able to do? Common words used are describe, classify, distinguish, explain, interpret, give examples of, etc.

What are student learning outcomes?

Student learning outcomes or SLOs are statements that specify what students will know, be able to do, or be able to demonstrate when they have completed or participated in a program/activity/course/project. Outcomes are usually expressed as knowledge, skills, attitudes, or values.

What are the characteristics of good SLOs?

SLOs specify an action by the student that must be observable, measurable, and able to be demonstrated. Goals vs. Outcomes: Goals are broad and typically focus on “what we are going to do” rather than what our recipients are “going to get out of what we do.” Outcomes are program/course/unit-specific.

Try this template for writing Student Learning Outcomes:

As a result of students participating in the _________________________, they will be able to ___________________________________________.
Example: As a result of students participating in the resident assistant training session for writing incident report forms, they will be able to write concisely, include factual details in their reports and use language that is non-judgmental.

For each SLO, use the following checklist to examine its quality:

  1. Does the outcome support the program goals? Y N
  2. Does the outcome describe what the program intends for students to know (cognitive), think (affective, attitudinal), or do (behavioral, performance)? Y N
  3. Is the outcome important/worthwhile? Y N
  4. Is the outcome
    1. Detailed and specific? Y N
    2. Measurable/identifiable? Y N
    3. A result of learning? Y N
  5. Do you have or can you create an activity to enable students to learn the desired outcome? Y N
  6. Do you have a direct or indirect tool as measurements (direct if possible)? Y N
  7. Can the outcome be used to make decisions on how to improve the program? Y N

Reference: Lora Scagliola, University of Rhode Island, Student Affairs, 6/24/2007. Drawn in part from: Keeling & Associates, Inc. (2003, January). Developing Learning Outcomes That Work. Atlanta, GA. Fowler, B. (1996). Bloom’s Taxonomy and Critical Thinking. Retrieved February 23, 2005, from [now available here]; template adapted from Gail Short Hanson, American University, as originally published in Learning Reconsidered 2, p. 39.

Example from Cal Poly Pomona:

Goal 1: Understand and can apply fundamental concepts of the discipline.

Student Learning Outcomes connected to Goal 1:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of basic concepts in the following areas of the discipline: _______, _______, _________, and _________.
  2. Recognize the source(s) of major viewpoints in discipline.
  3. Apply concepts and/or viewpoints to a new question or issue.

Writing S.M.A.R.T. SLOs

  • Specific – clear, definite terms describing the abilities, knowledge, values, attitudes and performance desired. Use action words or concrete verbs.
  • Measurable – Your SLO should have a measurable outcome and a target can be set, so that you can determine when you have reached it.
  • Achievable – Know the outcome is something your students can accomplish.
  • Realistic – make sure the outcome is practical in that it can be achieved in a reasonable time frame.
  • Time-bound – When will the outcome be done? Identify a specific timeframe.


Here is the part of the UCA CI process form you will complete when you have decided on your program’s SLOs:

CI Process Form: SLOs

CI Process Form: SLOs