Reply To: How do you communicate learning outcomes to your students?


One way I communicate learning outcomes is on the syllabus in the form of a chart that lists the assignments in columns and learning outcomes in rows; an “X” marks the intersecting cell where an assignment is designed for students to work toward their achievement of a specific outcome. When I introduce activities and assignments, I refer back to this chart so students know which outcomes they align with.

Syllabus LOs

This year I decided to include the course learning outcomes on my end-of-semester survey. I asked students to indicate whether they felt they had “mastered,” “achieved,” “partially achieved,” or “not achieved” each outcome so I could get a better sense of which outcomes I needed to provide better support for in the future.

Perhaps more important than communicating learning outcomes, however, is communicating the significance of the outcomes, which is a top priority. For example, one of my learning outcomes is “demonstrate the skills required to think and write analytically about nonfiction texts.” This past semester, I designed a small-group activity for the first day of class that required students to guess the medium of text I retrieved from a variety of social media sites, professional emails, blogs, etc. Not only did this activity help students begin to build community, but it also proved to be a decent way for them to recognize the diverse “nonfiction texts” they frequently see and analyze, based on commonly understood conventions for each medium or their own personal experiences. This led to a discussion of why it’s so important to develop the skills necessary to critically engage with nonfiction texts, whether they are readings in our anthology, news articles, tweets, Instagram captions, or anything else. Students could then start to see how this course’s learning outcomes could help them outside of the classroom.

I’d love to hear how other instructors convey their course learning outcomes to students. Has anyone else designed specific activities to communicate the importance or relevance of specific learning outcomes? Which activities have been most effective, and what types of responses have you received from students?