ETP - Ensuring Learner-Centered Course Outcomes

Learning Objectives

Rationale

The first step in designing or redesigning a course is to identify the core set of skills and concepts that you want students to develop and master (Nilson, 2016). Begin by asking, “What is the big impact I want my course to have on my students two or three years after they have finished college and are in their postcollege life and profession?”

Learning Objectives

To develop learner-centered course outcomes and learning objectives, we will discuss practices you can use to:

  • Identify relevant and transferable skills and concepts
  • Integrate discipline-specific ways of thinking
  • Create learning objectives
  • Make course outcomes and learning objectives student centered, meaningful, and measurable
  • Explicitly share course outcomes and learning objectives with students
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on course outcomes and learning objectives

Skeletal Outline

Download a skeletal outline to take notes on the practices included in this module.


Course Demonstration

Select one or more of the videos below that show instructors effectively demonstrating the evidence-based practices presented in this module. In the first set of three videos, faculty explain how they work to analyze, revise, or develop course outcomes and learning objectives. The next set of two videos focuses on ways to engage your students with outcomes. The final video may be of interest to you if you are given your course outcomes by your department, institution, or accrediting body.

Analyze, Revise, or Develop Course Outcomes and Learning Objectives

  • Identify core concepts and relevant and transferable skills

Download the transcript for this video.

  • Integrate discipline-specific ways of thinking

Download the transcript for this video.

  • Clearly identify what students need to know and be able to do to meet course outcomes (00:10)
  • Make course outcomes and learning objectives student centered, meaningful, and measurable (03:07)

Download the transcript for this video.

Engaging Students With Course Outcomes and Learning Objectives

  • Explicitly share course outcomes with students (00:45)
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on course outcomes (02:56)

Download the transcript for this video.

  • Explicitly share learning objectives with students (00:09)
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on learning objectives (01:44)

Download the transcript for this video.

What Can You Do If You Are Provided With Course Outcomes?

Download the transcript for this video.

Collaborating on Program and Course Outcomes

In this video, Candice Freeman, PhD, an instructor at Fayetteville Technical Community College, and Mya Rome, an instructor in the School of Child and Family Services at the University of Southern Mississippi, share how they and their colleagues create a program that builds students’ skills from semester to semester. You will also be able to sit in on a meeting in which a team at USM discusses their course development work.

Download the transcript for this video.


Implementation Videos

The series of four videos below will take you through the process of creating learner-centered, measurable, and meaningful outcomes and objectives. Download the  course design workbook to help when organizing your work for modules DC1, DC2, and DC3.


Analyze, Revise, or Develop Course Outcomes and Learning Objectives

Download the transcript for this video.

Identifying Learning Objectives

Download the transcript for this video.

Defining Learner-Centered, Meaningful, and Measurable Outcomes and Objectives (Part 1)

Download the transcript for this video.

Defining Learner-Centered, Meaningful, and Measurable Outcomes and Objectives (Part 2)

Download the transcript for this video.

Download a resource on action verbs aligned to Bloom’s cognitive levels.


Expert Insights

In this video, you will hear Tom Angelo, EdD; Aaron Pallas, PhD; Michelle Miller, PhD; Tracie Addy, PhD; and Linda Nilson, PhD, authors and scholars in teaching and learning, discuss the specific nuances of and the research supporting the teaching practices presented in this module.

Download the transcript for this video.


Common Challenges & Misconceptions

In this section, you will read about some common challenges and misconceptions associated with practices designed to ensure learner-centered course outcomes. Click on each statement to read research-based clarifications and suggestions aligned to each challenge or misconception.

CHALLENGE: What if I can’t change the outcomes/objectives on the syllabus I’ve been given?

Clarification:

For some courses your outcomes and the syllabus may be provided to you by your department, institution, or accrediting body and you are asked not to make changes. If, as you analyze the outcomes, you realize that they are not as effective as you would like them to be, there are steps you can take to both keep the required outcomes and provide students with outcomes/objectives that are more effective and student-friendly.   

Consider the suggestions shared by Catherine Haras and Beverly Bondad-Brown, from the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at Cal State LA in the video below.

Download the transcript for this video.

CHALLENGE: Why should I take time from learning to share how the course is designed?

Clarification:

 It may be your experience that students are not really interested in how you designed the course and you are therefore afraid that the time you take for these explanations is not well spent.

Below, course designers Catherine Haras and Beverly Bondad-Brown from the Center for Effective Teaching and Learning at Cal State LA explain why taking the time to share how a course is designed and why it is designed that way helps students, especially first-generation students, succeed.

Download the transcript for this video.

CHALLENGE: How can I ensure that my course is culturally relevant for my students?

Clarification:

While I realize my students have rich lived experiences and it is important for them to see themselves in my course, I can’t always make changes to the required readings and other resources. Are there other ways to integrate student interests and experiences into my course?

In this video, course designers Catherine Haras and Beverly Bondad-Brown discuss how to incorporate culturally relevant examples, as well as readings and resources, into your course.

Download the transcript for this video.

MISCONCEPTION: Why should I integrate discipline-specific thinking or core concepts into introductory-level courses; after all, most of my students will not be majoring in my discipline?

Clarification:

In their book titled Convergent Teaching (2019, p. 87) Pallas and Neumann point out that it is not enough for instructors to produce students who can cite “the right answers” to statistical problems without understanding the thinking that got them there, to follow writing procedures without understanding these procedures’ connections to claims (including what counts as claims), to memorize scientific facts without understanding their origins, or to reproduce historical chronologies without grasping the nature of the events they represented. Miller (2014) adds that integrating discipline-specific ways of thinking allows instructors to teach critical thinking skills—a goal most colleges set for graduates. 

In addition, using core concepts to organize a course helps students understand that knowledge is not a random list of knowledge bits (e.g., facts), but rather a set of patterned regularities reflecting core ideas that recur via elaboration and critique. 

Discipline-specific ways of thinking include the thought processes that are essential to the students’ success in future courses and careers within your discipline. Although each course may have countless discipline-specific ways of thinking, it is important to integrate those that will most benefit students in their continued learning in your course, as well as in subsequent courses and in their careers (Pallas & Neumann, 2019).

In Convergent Teaching, Pallas and Neumann explain the significance of giving students entrée to a field by identifying core concepts and other concepts nearby that enable students to think ahead and make connections between their everyday lives or popular culture and the discipline-specific concepts or modes of thinking. Another benefit to integrating discipline-specific ways of thinking is that it allows you to teach critical thinking skills within your subject area (Miller, 2014).

Download the transcript for this video.


Observe & Analyze

In part one of this Observe & Analyze, you will complete an activity focused on assessing the quality of course outcomes and learning objectives. As you analyze these outcomes and objectives, you will gain a deeper understanding of the elements of effective learning outcomes.

Please review the learning outcomes below to determine if each is:

  • Student-centered: It describes the work that students will be expected to do.
  • Measurable: It ensures that students can demonstrate mastery.

Outcomes and objectives should also be meaningful. However, it is difficult to determine if a single statement is meaningful without knowing the context of the course. For this reason, we are not asking you to decide if an outcome or objective is also meaningful.


Implementation Resources

  • Implementation Resources

  • Module Resources

This section includes resources to support your implementation of the practices presented in the module.

Download all of the implementation guides for this module.

Analyze, revise, or develop course outcomes and learning objectives

Identify relevant and transferable skills and concepts

The first step in designing (or redesigning) a course is to identify the core skills and concepts that you want students to develop and master (Nilson, 2016). Begin by identifying the core skills and concepts that you want students to have long after they have finished your course, as well as the relevant and transferable skills that will help them engage in the course and succeed in subsequent courses and in their careers.

Download a resource on identifying core skills and concepts.

Integrate discipline-specific ways of thinking

Discipline-specific ways of thinking are those thought processes and skills that are essential to the students’ success in future courses and careers within your discipline. Integrating them into your course outcomes helps students recognize the significance of the course to their future goals and develop critical thinking skills. But first, you need to identify discipline-specific ways of thinking, which can be difficult as experts in your fields and disciplines!

Download a resource on integrating discipline-specific ways of thinking.

Create learning objectives

Clearly identifying what students need to know and be able to do to meet course outcomes will help you plan appropriate teaching activities, assignments, and assessments that allow your students to build their skills so they can effectively master the course outcomes. Explore the difference between course outcomes and learning objectives and review the process of breaking down course outcomes into learning objectives.

Download a resource on creating learning objectives.

Make course outcomes and learning objectives student centered, meaningful, and measurable

Course outcomes and learning objectives benefit from being written in a way that is student centered, meaningful, and measurable. Review how outcomes and learning objectives can be student centered, meaningful, and measurable, review examples of such outcomes and objectives, and ensure that your outcomes and objectives are student centered, meaningful, and measurable.

Download a resource on making outcomes and objectives student centered, meaningful, and measurable.

Download a resource on action verbs aligned to Bloom’s cognitive levels.


Engage students with course outcomes and learning objectives

Explicitly share course outcomes and learning objectives with students

Explicitly sharing course outcomes and learning objectives with students helps to engage them in the course and content as a path toward success in subsequent courses or in their career. Use learner-friendly language, tie learning objectives back to course outcomes, and consider using a Course Concept Study Guide.

Download a resource on sharing course outcomes and objectives with students.

Provide opportunities for students to reflect on course outcomes and learning objectives

Reflection is a powerful learning tool; it helps students retain new information while deepening their understanding of the concept or skill (Cohen, 2018). Provide opportunities for students to reflect on course outcomes and learning objectives through various exit ticket activities, summary discussions or posts, and practice quizzes, and by adjusting your assignments to support the feedback from their reflections.

Download a resource on providing students opportunities for reflection.


This section provides links to the resources generously provided by the faculty featured in this module.


Engage students with course outcomes and learning objectives

Provide opportunities for students to reflect on course outcomes and learning objectives

Amanda Deliman : Exit Ticket Examples


References

Beverly Bondad-Brown, PhD
Director of Academic Technology
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles
She/her/hers

Hugh Broome, PhD
Associate Teaching Professor
School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi
He/him/his

Susan Clark, PhD
Assistant Teaching Professor
Child and Family Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi

Earle M. Crosswait III
Academic Specialist 
Mathematics
Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College
He/him/his

Amanda Deliman, PhD
Assistant Professor
School of Teacher Education and Leadership
Utah State University
She/her/hers

Candice L. Freeman, PhD
Department Chair
Medical Laboratory Technology Program
Fayetteville Technical Community College
She/her/hers

Catherine Haras, MLIS
Executive Director
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles

Angel Herring, PhD
Associate Professor
School of Child and Family Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi
She/her/hers

Naat Jairam
Instructional Designer
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles
He/him/his

Kelly Lester, EdD, MFA
Director
Center for Faculty Development
The University of Southern Mississippi
She/her/hers

Mwauna Maxwell
2020-22 Faculty Fellow for the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning
Faculty, Department of Psychology
Dallas College
She/her/hers

Kenjuana McCray, EdD
Lead Program Coordinator
Arts & Humanities Program
Fayetteville Technical Community College
She/her/hers

Steven Mintz, PhD
Professor
Department of History
University of Texas at Austin
He/him/his

Natasha Nurse-Clarke, RN, PhD
Assistant Professor
School of Nursing
Lehman College, CUNY
She/her/hers

Deborah M. Oh, PhD
Professor of Statistics, Research and Evaluation
Applied and Advanced Studies in Education
Charter College of Education
California State University, Los Angeles
She/her/hers

Deninne Pritchett, PhD
Chairperson and Faculty Member
Department of Psychology
Central Piedmont Community College
She/her/hers

Mya Rome
Instructor
School of Child and Family Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi
She/her/hers

Bryan Spuhler, PhD
Assistant Professor
Child and Family Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi

Jeff Suarez-Grant
Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Effective Teaching and Learning
California State University, Los Angeles
He/him/his

Lindsay Wright, PhD
Associate Professor
Child and Family Sciences
The University of Southern Mississippi
She/her/hers

Tracie Addy, PhD
Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning
Director, Center for the Integration of Teaching, Learning, & Scholarship 
Lafayette College
She/her/hers

Thomas A. Angelo, EdD
Coauthor, Classroom Assessment Techniques
Emeritus Professor, Educational Innovation & Research
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Michelle Miller, PhD
Professor and President’s Distinguished Teaching Fellow
Department of Psychology
Northern Arizona University
She/her/hers

Anna Neumann, PhD
Professor of Higher Education
Program in Higher and Postsecondary Education
Teachers College, Columbia University
She/her/hers

Linda Nilson, PhD
Author, Teaching at Its Best: A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors
Faculty Developer and Center Director Emerita
Clemson University

Aaron M. Pallas, PhD
Professor of Sociology and Education
Education Policy and Social Analysis
Teachers College, Columbia University
He/him/his

Bain, K. (2004).
What the best college teachers do. Harvard University Press.

Cohen, L. (2018).
The power of reflection. California Teacher Development Collaborative. https://catdc.org/the-power-of-reflection/

Darby, F. (with Lang, J. M.). (2019).
Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey-Bass.

DePaul University, Teaching Commons. (n.d.). 
Course objectives and learning outcomes. https://resources.depaul.edu/teaching-commons/teaching-guides/course-design/Pages/course-objectives-learning-outcomes.aspx

Fink, L. D. (2013).
Creating significant learning experiences, revised and updated: An integrated approach to designing college courses. Jossey-Bass.

Lent, R. (2017).
Disciplinary literacy: A shift that makes sense. ASCD. https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/disciplinary-literacy-a-shift-that-makes-sense

Miller, M. D. (2014).
Minds online: Teaching effectively with technology. Harvard University Press.

Nilson, L. B. (2016).
Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors (4th ed.). Jossey-Bass.

Pallas, A. M., & Neumann, A. (2019).
Convergent teaching: Tools to spark deeper learning in college. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wakeford, L. (n.d.). 
Sample exit tickets. Brown University, Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning. https://www.brown.edu/sheridan/teaching-learning-resources/teaching-resources/course-design/classroom-assessment/entrance-and-exit/sample