Assessing Student Learning in Higher Education

Section 1

Section 2
 Background and Rationale for Assessment

Section 3
 Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
Defining SLOs
Defining Terms
Objectives & SLOs
Sample SLOs
SLOs & Learning Domains
Writing SLOs
Evaluate the section

Section 4

Assessment Tools and Data

Section 5
Course Assessment

Section 6
Program Assessment


Section 7
Closing the Loop

Section 8
Implementing Assessment Training on Campus


Section 9
References & Resources



Using Materials from this Website

Defining Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Student learning outcomes are the specific measurable goals and results that are expected subsequent to a learning experience. These outcomes may involve knowledge (cognitive), skills (behavioral), or attitudes (affective behavior) that display evidence that learning has occurred, at a specified level of competency, as a result of a course or program. Learning outcomes are clear and assessable statements that define what a student is able to DO at the completion of a course or program. Learning outcomes provide a focus and a standard for the classroom or the student services program.

When writing SLOs:


Focus on what the student can do. Don't address what was taught or presented, but address the observable outcome you expect to see in the student.)


Use active verbs.  Active verbs are easier to measure. For instance, if you want the students to understand how to correctly use a microscope - using the word understand is not measurable. Can you measure understanding? Instead try to imagine the outcome - Students will focus and display an image on the microscope. For this I can both develop criteria and measure ability.


Include an assessable expectation. It helps if you have clearly defined expectations concerning the criteria related to that outcome. In the above example, some of the criteria related to using the microscope would include:

a clearly focused image


correct lighting adjustment of the diaphragm and condenser


appropriate magnification for the object


an evenly distributed specimen field


clearly located object identified by the pointer


a written identification


Share the outcomes with faculty from other disciplines and within your own discipline. This helps focus the meaning of the statements. For instance in the above criteria the faculty might ask for clarification of "appropriate magnification."


Share the outcomes with your students. Students need to clearly understand what is expected, they  are unfamiliar with the discipline specific language. This helps focus the clarity of the statements.


Modify as you learn from experience. Leave the word "DRAFT" at the top of your SLOs to remind yourself and communicate to others that you are actively improving them.

Learning outcomes are clear and measurable statements that define what a student is able to DO at the completion of a course or program.

Proceed to Defining Student Learning Outcomes Part 2.

Resources and Links

A Basic Guide to Writing Student Learning Outcomes
Cabrillo College

SLOs Home Page - A Faculty Resource on Development and Assessment
University of Washington

How to Write Student Learning Outcomes Kansas State University

Learning Outcomes
Sinclair Community College


Janet Fulks
Assessing Student Learning in Community Colleges (2004), Bakersfield College