I'm confused when it comes to writing learning outcomes. When searching online I become more confused.

How can I understand how to write good learning outcomes.

The same for me when it comes to the syllabus, I don't know how to start writing it.

  • 1
    Can you add some necessary information? It looks like you are either working as a TA or faculty.
    – Coder
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 20:14
  • 1
    Try looking for information on "learning goals" instead - I am more familiar with that terminology, though it means the same thing. There are tons of references on learning goals and although Academia.SE folks are often good at explaining certain things, I don't see any reason why one of those many references wouldn't solve your confusion whereas an answer here would.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 22:26
  • I have never seen any evidence to support the assertion that writing learning outcomes is a worthwhile thing to do. Then we get into stuff like using Bloom's taxonomy...which seems to have been validated with respect to reality about as well as Tibetan Buddhist cosmology. This is all the kind of stuff that is beloved by accrediting agencies and curriculum committees, but completely unsupported AFAIK by anything in the pedagogical literature.
    – user1482
    Commented May 19, 2017 at 3:36

4 Answers 4


If you are designing the course, you get to pick the outcomes. So you get to decide what is good. Learning goals will be specific to the course, discipline, and the type of students you anticipate teaching.

There are some general principles that can help. For setting outcomes/objectives/goals in any context, the "SMART" criteria are good. Outcomes should be Specific, Measurable (by assessments), Achievable, Realistic, Time Limited (by the length of the course), and Evaluated (to see if the course is wroking).

The Bloom Taxonomy is a system for classifying learning outcomes/objectives/goals. It is often presented with a list of verbs you can use to construct learning outcomes. These verbs describe what the students will be able to do at the end of the course. You get to pick which ones to use, but it's often recommended to use different parts of the taxonomy.


An example:

At the topmost level, if I am teaching an introductory course in some sort of computer programming, by the end of the course I want the students to be able to do the following, mostly without help:

  • come up with a simple algorithm for a problem that's been clearly defined

  • write code to implement the algorithm, in the given language

  • debug their program

  • look up the syntax for a command they've never used before

  • choose self-documenting variable names

  • self-document the code to explain to the reader, or to himself, what's going on

and probably a few other things that I'm not thinking of, off the top of my head.

For whatever course you're teaching, you have to sit down and think about what you want students to be able to do by the end of the course. Why are they taking the course? Why are you teaching it? What's the point?

I would be able to help you better if you cited some specific sources that left you confused, and if you explained what you're confused about.

For the syllabus -- why don't you look at the syllabi for some courses you've taken over the years, and model yours on the ones you think were helpful for you as a student?


Learning outcomes are specific behaviors a student can achieve as a result of instruction and our a learning experience. An example would be

"The student will be able to write a paragraph that includes a main idea and several supporting details".

The example above is future oriented. This is in contrast to objectives which are often focused on the present. Below is the same outcome written as an objective.

"The student will write a paragraph that includes a main idea and several supporting details".

As you can see the difference between these two is superficial and the terms are used interchangeable. The main rule is to use one or the other and not both.


The responses here are all good, especially consulting with Bloom Taxonomy. Is this a brand new course? If not, I'm sure that the department has prior syllabi (or consult with others who have taught the course before) to see what other learning objectives have been developed for that class or other classes in that program.

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