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Instructional Outcomes

Creating, Editing, Mapping Outcomes

Table of Contents

Creating Outcome Statements

Course-level outcomes (CLOs) should be created in collaboration and through the consensus of the faculty teaching in that area. The outcomes should align with the course outline, assignments, and objectives of the course content.

Some things to consider when creating CLOs:

  • How do courses build toward mastery and increasing expectations for specific outcomes?
  • How do assignments and activities elicit student demonstrations of a specific learning outcome?
  • How do learning outcomes align with course assignments?
  • Are learners aware of the connections among their learning experiences?
  • Where do learners think they have demonstrated attainment of learning outcomes?
  • Among area faculty, is there a shared understanding and consensus reached of what the learning outcomes mean and represent in terms of student demonstration and assessment?
  • How do individual faculty contribute to this collective work in their individual course assignments?

Some things to consider when creating program-level outcomes (PLOs):

  • How do different educational experiences contribute to the collective work of meeting learning outcomes?
  • What paths and patterns already exist in terms of learner movement through the curriculum?

What Are Best Practices in Writing Outcome Statements?

When writing outcome statements, it is helpful to use verbs that are measurable, or which describe an observable action such as those verbs listed as part of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The more specific a verb, the clearer the outcome will be, thereby lessening the chance of faculty and student misinterpretation.

Click or tap here to open the Outcomes Statement Template (PDF).

Words Open to Many InterpretationsWords Open to Fewer Interpretations
To knowTo write
To understandTo recite
To really understandTo identify
To appreciateTo sort
To full appreciateTo solve
To grasp the significance ofTo construct
To enjoyTo compare
To believeTo contrast

How Are Outcomes Different From Grades?


CLOs are distinct measures of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that students should acquire after completing the course succesfully. On the other hand, grades are inclusive of everything that happens in a course, including attendance.

Grades are holistic measures of multiple skills. Grades provide feedback to the student on their overall performance but do not pinpoint which skills need improvement.

(Sholars, 2009)

SLOs [i.e., CLOs] are the skills that students acquire upon completion of a course. Grades reflect both mastery of subject matter as well as other specific course expectations such as participation and completion of work.

(Apigo, Baker, and Janio, 2020)


Grades are inclusive of everything that happens in the course. A grade provides an overall picture of how a student performed for the entirety of the course. A grade does not indicate how well or whether a student acquired various skills and concepts. Whereas grades are meant to be student-specific, CLOs are meant to be skill-specific.

  • Course descriptions conceal intended learning more than they reveal.
  • At the degree level, institutions rely on seat time or credit accrual as an indication that students are moving successfully through curricula that align to institutional degree expectations.
  • Seat time and credit accrual are only proxy measures for student learning; they say nothing about what students have learned while sitting in their seats or in the process of accruing their credits.
  • Alignment of outcomes and learning experiences, therefore, is often assumed but may not actually exist.

(Degrees that Matter, pages 56–57)

Outcomes Assessment

The outcomes assessment process provides feedback on students’ learning specific skills, and pinpoint which skills need improvement.

  • CLO assessment focuses on specific skills and competencies that students acquire during a course.
    • For example: If there are two distinct CLOs in a given course, one of which refers to theory and the other to practical skills, then the grade of B+ at the end of the course will not reflect the extent to which a student acquired either.
  • CLO assessment data will show how well students have mastered theory and practice of the course.

(Sharing Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) [i.e., CLOs] With Your College Community, ASCCC, 2010)

How Are Outcomes Different From Objectives?

Outcomes are typically broader and may be themed clusters of course objectives identified in the course outline of record (COR). Some practitioners believe outcomes are more student-centered than objectives, whereas objectives are more teacher-centered.


A course objective describes what a faculty member will cover in a course. Objectives are generally less broad than goals, and broader than CLOs. An analogy: Objectives are like the ingredients and the recipe; outcomes are the final product—the cake. 

Examples of objectives:

  • “Students will gain an understanding of the origins of art history.”
  • “Students will read and analyze seminal works in twentieth-century American literature.”
  • “Students will study the major regulatory agencies.”


An outcome is a detailed description of what students must be able to do at the conclusion of a course. The best outcomes will include a description of the conditions (i.e., “When given x, the student will be able to y”), and the acceptable performance level.

Editing Outcomes Statements

Minor Changes to Outcomes Statements

Editing outcomes statements may include minor changes where errors are corrected but content remains the same. These types of changes may have been initiated by the use of the Outcomes Template (PDF). Minor changes may include fixing:

  • Spelling errors.
  • Punctuation errors.
  • Grammar errors.


Major Changes to Outcomes Statements

Editing outcomes statements may include major changes which could necessitate creating a new outcomes set and making the old ones “obsolete.” These types of changes may have been initiated by changes in curriculum or program reviews during these cycles.

Major changes to outcomes statements require multiple steps including:

  • Creating new outcomes sets for outcomes statements.
  • Mapping outcomes statements to PLOs and institutional-level outcomes (ILOs).
  • Making outcomes statements “obsolete” and “active.”


Mapping Outcomes

What Is Mapping?

Mapping involves linking CLOs to their respective programs, degrees, and/or certificates. Mapping demonstrates a relationship between the building blocks within courses to the overall program or institution.

Each CLO needs to be mapped to (1) at least one PLO; and (2) at least one ILO.

How Are Maps Utilized?

Maps are utilized to ensure learning is strategically supported within courses and between courses and their respective programs, degrees, and/or certificates. Additionally mapping is applied to the ILOs (see section XIV) to link specific programs and general education requirements.

An example of course-level mapping to a degree or certificate:

XYZ PLOXYZ PLO Outcome 1XYZ PLO Outcome 1XYZ PLO Outcome 3
Course 101X  
Course 102X  
Course 103 XX
Course 104 X 
Course 105  X

Outcome Progression

Optional: Faculty may also want to consider where (i.e., which course) and when (i.e., course progression within a certificate or degree) an outcome is introduced (I), developed (D), and mastered (M). How do courses build toward mastery and increasing expectations for particular outcomes? An example of course-level mapping to a degree, including development:
XYZ PLO Outcome 1 XYZ PLO Outcome 1 XYZ PLO Outcome 3
Course 101 I*
Course 102 I
Course 103 D M
Course 104 D
Course 105 M

* I: Introduced; D: Developed; M: Mastered

When is Mapping Revised/Altered?

During curriculum revisions (five-year cycle), CLOs may be revised, and adjustments made to mapping.

During program reviews (six-year cycle), PLOs may be revised, and adjustments made to mapping.

Where are Outcomes Mapped?  

Outcomes are mapped within Taskstream. Note: CLOs only need to be entered and mapped one time. Again, each CLO needs to be mapped to (1) at least one PLO; and (2) at least one ILO.

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