What are Learning Outcomes?

By the end of this blog post, you will be able to:

  • Explain the difference between General Learning Outcomes and Specific Learning Outcomes
  • Compose General Learning Outcomes
  • Compose Specific Learning Outcomes using your General Learning Outcomes

An outcome is a statement that tells students what you expect them to achieve or be able to demonstrate by the end of the course. You can present your outcomes in your course syllabus or as a separate resource. And there are a lot of benefits to taking the time to provide your course outcomes:5 Ways Outcomes Can Benefit Your Course

So how do you write an outcome?

If you’ve decided that you want to try providing course outcomes, the first thing you should check is whether your department has already prepared Program Outcomes. Program Outcomes can provide a great starting place for you, and could also be provided with the outcomes for your course.

For this blog post, we’ll stick to two types of learning outcomes: General Learning Outcomes and Specific Learning Outcomes.

Like the name implies, General Learning Outcomes are going to be broad statements about the expected outcomes of your course. They’re are almost how you might answer someone you meet in a hall, “Why should I take this course?”. Your answer would likely summarize the core goals of your course without getting into too much detail of the topics or assessments.

Some examples of General Learning Outcomes would be “By the end of this course you will be able to: “Identify key historical events that have shaped modern Istanbul”, or “Describe the process of DNA replication”.

As you might expect, Specific Learning Outcomes are more specific. They should be written in ways that are assessable. These statements help students identify the expectations of how they’ll have to demonstrate their learning. The Special Learning Outcomes are the measurable pieces that make up the larger General Learning Outcomes.

Specific Learning Outcomes are usually structured to be short statements that have a single descriptive verb. Some examples of specific learning outcomes would be “You will be expected to: arrange the elements in order of electronegativity”, or “compose lines of poetry in iambic pentameter.”

One tool that can help you write your outcomes is Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy can help you identify which type of learning you’re trying to facilitate and can recommend some of the verbs that work well in a representative outcome.

Here’s a table from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission guide to writing outcomes that provides some verbs that go with the categories of learning in Bloom’s model.


Content Verbs for Specific Learning Outcomes


Facts, places, information, objects, events, characteristics, vocabulary

Arrange, define, duplicate, know, label, list, match, memorize, name, order, quote, recognize, recall, repeat


Words, sentences, ideas, definitions, meanings, new examples, relationships, aspects, consequences

Characterize, classify, complete, depict, describe, discuss, establish, explain, express, identify, illustrate, locate, recognize, report, relate, review, sort, translate


New situations, problems, difficulties, situations

Administer, apply, calculate, choose, compute, conduct, demonstrate, dramatize, employ, implement, interpret, operate, perform, practice, prescribe, sketch, solve


Causes, effects, principles, connections, events, conducts, devices, parts, instruments, errors, fallacies, facts, hypotheses and arguments

analyze, appraise, categorize, compare, contrast, critique, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, detect, examine, experiment, explore, explain, inventory, investigate, question research, test


Undertakings, writings, narrations, descriptions, colours, shapes, stories, theories, structures, models, discoveries

Combine, compose, consolidate, construct, create, design, formulate, hypothesize, integrate, merge, organize, plan, propose, synthesize, systematize, theorize, unite, write


Advantages, disadvantages, decisions, similarities, difficulties, agreements, disagreements, strengths, weaknesses

Appraise, argue, assess, critique, defend, distinguish, envision, estimate, examine, grade, inspect, judge, justify, rank, rate, review, value, validate

This table isn’t comprehensive, but is one tool that you can use for writing outcomes. There’s also an app that you can use to help you write your outcomes is the Objectives Builder by James Basore.

If you have any questions about writing or presenting the outcomes in your course, feel free to contact us.