Skip to main content

Begin with the End in Mind

Whether we’re presenting an introductory lecture to first-year DVM students, developing clinical skills in third-year students, guiding a discussion on hiring practices, or providing technology training to staff, LEARNING OUTCOMES enhance the experience for all involved.

According to the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, learning outcomes “clearly state the expected knowledge, skills, attitudes, competencies, and habits of mind that students are expected to acquire.”

In practice, learning outcomes provide the opportunity to specifically identify what learners should be able to do or to know as a result of activity we’ve planned. Moreover, making outcomes transparent ensures all involved in a learning experience commit resources toward the task at hand. (As a student or participant, if I don’t know what someone is trying to teach me or what they want me to do with this information, how can I assist or hold myself responsible?)

The following are tips culled from resources compiled on writing LO’s and available at


  • Move away from a list of topics to what the learner will know and be able to do.
  • Consider what you want the learner to get out of the experience/time/activity: What do you want to accomplish? How are you going to accomplish it? How would you measure the accomplishment?
  • Think about what you could tell learners that would clearly explain what you expect of them and how they will be evaluated.


  • Avoid verbs that are too broad or general to describe what you want learners to do or know. Eliminate fuzzy words like “understand” and “appreciate.”
  • Use active verbs to ensure that you can measure learner knowledge (define, identify), comprehension (classify, describe), application (apply, use, calculate), analysis (differentiate, examine), evaluation (rate, critique), and/or creation (design, propose). For more information, google Bloom’s taxonomy.
  • Check your outcome to see if it is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-focused, and Time-focused.

If your learning outcomes are thoughtful, constructed well, and transparent, all your graded activities and assessments will match (or align) with them. Other benefits may include better organization of material presented, greater flexibility in activities planned or instructional approach, and increased learner satisfaction or performance.

The Office of Teaching & Learning is available to review or assist you with constructing learning outcomes for lectures, activities, training, courses, or programs.

Curated Resources