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Communicating Expectations: Suggestions for Writing Learning Outcomes

The following tips can help you write learning outcomes that communicate your expectations. For more information on on writing learning outcomes, please see FSU's Outcomes and Institutional Effectiveness guidelines.

  • Design the class so students “interrogate the content” and have opportunities to use knowledge and skill in context. Use questions that get at matters of deep understanding. Design time spent in class such that it is essential to understanding the material and performing the assessments.
  • Tell students about the work that is expected of them in the class.
  • Tell them how much time you expect assignments to take and suggest ways for them to organize their notes.
  • Emphasize the importance of holding high standards for academic excellence.
  • Talk about the following:
    • Study skills for your particular course
    • Plagiarism (use a tool like TurnItIn that provides originality reports)
    • Be a model of academic inquiry, share your research strategies with students and inquire deeper into their responses. Clarify your expectations orally and in writing:*
  • Use categories in your syllabus that communicate expectations:
    • Course calendar in an easy to read format that includes all due dates
    • Attendance policy
    • Late work policy*
    • Preparation/Expectations for in-class discussions and participation in activities (and statements on how it is relevant to students / learning the material / engaging in the discipline)
    • Honor and Plagiarism statement
    • Professionalism—how you acculturate students to your discipline
    • Student responsibilities
    • Course Learning Objectives
  • Provide grading rubrics (what a student must do to earn an A on an assessment)
  • Provide models of excellent assessments (papers, projects)
  • Help students set challenging goals for their own learning.*
    • What are their goals for their own learning?
    • Tap into their goals: Paper assignments that are driven by their questioning/inquiry.
  • Publicly call attention to excellent performance by your students.
  • Periodically discuss how well the class is doing during the course of the semester.*

*Relates to Principle #6: Good Practice Communicates High Expectations, from “Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” as compiled in a study supported by the American Association for Higher Education, the Education Commission of the States, and The Johnson Foundation. By Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson.

Practice Activity: Improving Course Objectives

Take a look at the sample draft objectives below (from a course on film and culture) and use the reflection questions to help you think about ways to make your own objectives clearer to students.

1) This course will identify how films can serve as a vehicle for teaching audiences about other cultures.

2) This unit will show how Hollywood utilizes socially constructed stereotypes to create a believable sentiment of unity and heroism in war films.

Do the above outcomes put the emphasis on what the learner will do?

3) Students will become aware of how to read the "invisible" Hollywood style and apply that reading to the film Casablanca.

4) Screwball Comedy Learning outcomes. Students will be able to:

  • Identify the characteristics of Screwball Comedy.
  • Appreciate the importance of the genre as a response to the restrictions imposed on Hollywood filmmakers by the Production Code of 1934.
  • Recognize the effect Screwball Comedy has had on today’s films.

Do the above outcomes present measurable outcomes? Why not?

5) Outcomes for Week 8: After watching "Barbershop" the student will use the film to modify stereotypes presented to fit different American minorities.

6) The students will identify at least three examples of how repressed sex finds expression in spite of the Production Code of 1934.

Do the above outcomes provide enough information on how the student will be assessed/measured? Why not?

7) Students will be able to list the different ways that Americans have become divided by race, class, gender, and sexuality through a midterm paper that analyzes stereotypes, film techniques and the use of genres in film.

Does the above objective assess at the same level the objective states? Why not?

Do any of the above outcomes provide a road map for learning activities?

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  • 18-Feb-2020