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More About Writing course SLOs

The Student Learning Outcomes for a course reflect the level of rigor, critical thinking, and specific skill levels students are expected to achieve as a result of their experience in the course. At Santa Rosa Junior College, the SLOs for a course are listed in the Course Outline of Record (COR) and are supported by the course objectives. The SLOs of a course provide the foundation for course assessment.

When faculty discuss and develop the SLOs for a course they should focus on the broader applications of the knowledge and skills that students will be able to use if they fully learn the content and concepts of the course. When writing SLOs, it helps to envision exactly what the student would be able to do in the real world or the next level of the program after completion of the course.

About SLOs in the Course Outline of Record

When updating an older course (last reviewed before 2007) or writing a new course, faculty must separate out the SLOs from the objectives. For older courses that have only objectives listed, this usually involves creating new statements for both SLOs and objectives.

For a new course, SLOs should be listed first and the supporting objectives determined after that. Since the term “Student Learning Outcome” implies a culminating ability, SLOs may be listed as statements with no preamble (that is, “Students will be able to…”), whereas the list of objectives is always headed with the phrase, “Upon completion of the course, students will be able to.”

Using Action Verbs

When writing Student Learning Outcomes and course objectives many instructors find it helpful to refer to a list of words representing levels of thinking. A classic reference is Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains, and a more current list with a slightly different approach is Anderson and Krathwohl’s Taxonomy 2000.

Writing Guidelines

The following guidelines help write clear and well-structured Student Learning Outcome statements:

  • The statement should describe what the students will be able to do at the end of the course.
  • SLO statements often start with the action verb (e.g., “Write an essay…,” “Create a Web site…”).
  • The verbs should reflect higher levels of thinking (from Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation columns). Verbs do not necessarily have to be on Bloom’s or Krathwohl’s list, but they should still represent critical thinking. For example, “recognize” and “identify” are lower levels of thinking and would be appropriate for objectives, but probably not for outcomes. More appropriate verbs for SLOs include words like “analyze” or “compose.”
  •  The outcome statement should lend itself to assessment, but the specific method of assessment and/or degree of achievement is not be stated explicitly. For example, SLOs using words like “organize” or “critique” could be assessed through observation, writing, a portfolio, or a project, but the assessment tool itself does not need to be defined in the statement.
  • SLOs referring to the affective domain still need to be demonstrated in some sort of active way. That is, a student may “understand” or “appreciate” something but would need to express this through, for instance, a job-site interaction, a critique, a well-formed argument, etc. Often words like "explain" or "evaluate" can reflect a student's understanding or appreciation.
  • SLO statements may be global, but the language should be fairly concise. Often, a higher level thinking skill implies the lower level abilities as well. Example:
Wordy: Students will be able to demonstrate the ability to identify, describe, and analyze the historical context of a Shakespearian work.
Better: Analyze the historical context of a Shakespearian work.

Examples of SLO Statements

The following examples are SLO statements from several SRJC courses. Each example is a single SLO excerpt from a longer list in the Course Outline. Since all courses reviewed after 2007 have SLO statements, more examples may be accessed through “Course Outlines” in faculty portals.

English 1A
Develop a multi paragraph persuasive essay containing a thesis statement supported by details and evidence organized in unified, make coherent, and adequately developed paragraphs.

Dental Hygiene 82A
Correctly interpret symptoms and select appropriate intervention to manage patient fear, anxiety, and/or pain in a dental clinic setting.

Nutrition
Analyze a documented nutritional problem, determine a strategy to correct the problem, and write a draft nutritional policy addressing the broader scope of the problem.

Organic Chemistry
Synthesize (on paper and in the laboratory) and purify a specified product from a list of given starting materials, while following common safety regulations and procedures.

Office Communications and Interpersonal Skills
Assess and recognize an audience in order to develop appropriate communications both orally and in writing that are sensitive to the audience's needs, values, and point of view.

ESL for Child Development Introduction to Early Childhood
Use English to evaluate the personal qualities of an effective early childhood educator.

Classical Music Appreciation
Describe and relate how the syntax and structure of Classical music has changed over time relative to cultural circumstances.

Philosophy of Peace and Nonviolent Action

Form reasoned and well-informed judgments on current issues involving the development of peace and the nonviolent resolution of conflict both within and between individuals and social groups.

Further Information on SLOs in the COR

For more information about writing Course SLOs for the course outline, see Section 4.10 in the Curriculum Writer’s Handbook on the Curriculum Web site.