Laney College

2010 How to Write SLOs

2010 How to Write SLOs

SLO Requirements

What should your department be working on? The accreditation standards require us to define student learning outcomes (SLOs) for each course, program, certificate, and degree. In addition, we need to continually assess student achievement of the SLOs. Here are the things your department should be working on:

  • Develop SLOs for each course in the department. If your department offers many courses, start with the most popular core courses. When you develop SLOs, there should be discussions between all instructors teaching the same course. The SLOs you develop should be common SLOs for all instructors teaching the course.
  • Make sure to include the SLOs on all course syllabi.
  • Develop SLOs for any degrees or certificates your department offers. There should be lots of input and discussion between department members while developing the outcomes. Post these program-level SLOs on your department website and in department brochures.
  • Decide which outcomes you will assess first, and submit an assessment plan in TaskStream.
  • Assess your course and program SLOs. This requires collecting information on how many students were able to achieve each student learning outcome. You can collect this information by examining papers, projects, performances, or other assignments that your students submit. You might also use a selection of test questions that directly relate to the outcome you are assessing. You might also give a survey to assess one or more outcomes.
  • Reflect on the results of your assessments, and implement changes/improvements to the course or program. Report on your results in TaskStream.
  • Repeat!

For more information, please read the SLO and Assessment Manual. It can be found in the “Documents” section of this site.


SLO and Assessment Manual

Check the “Documents” section for a downloadable “how-to” instruction manual on writing SLOs and Assessing the SLOs.


How to Write Student Learning Outcomes

Click on the link on the upper left corner of this page  to access instructions and tips on writing SLOs. You can access handouts from the SLO workshops from this page.

How to Write Student Learning Outcomes

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) describe what a student should be able to DO at the end of a course or program. Please click on “SLOs Links and Documents” in the list at the left to access other useful information on writing Student Learning Outcomes. It also contains a link to a chapter on SLOs in Janet Fulks excellent training manual.


1. SLOs use action verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy with an emphasis on higher-order thinking skills (such as analysis, synthesis, or evaluation). At least half of the SLOs for any course or program should involve higher-order skills.

2. There should be 3-8 SLOs for each class or program. When in doubt, fewer is better.

3. SLOs should be included in course syllabi.

4. SLOs should be the same for all sections of a course. However, each instructor may include on their course syllabi additional outcomes and/or course expectations.

5. SLOs should be written in language that students (and those outside the field) are able to understand.

6. SLOs are typically not content-specific.

7. SLOs should focus on big-picture, overarching concepts, skills, or attitudes.

8. SLOs ask students to apply what they have learned.

9. SLOs must be assessable and should suggest or imply an assessment. If they do include the method of assessment, it should not be too specific – a given SLO for a course should be appropriate for anyone teaching the course.

10. Avoid starting SLOs with the words such as “understand”, “learn”, “know”, etc. since these indicate internal mental processes for the students. (It might be possible to use words like this if the assessment method is indicated in the SLO.) Focus instead on what students will be able to do, produce, or demonstrate.

11. Ideally, each course or program should include SLOs from more than one domain (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective).

12. When writing SLOs, think about how you will assess each one.


Bloom’s Taxonomy can be found here:

Domains for SLOs

This is list of active verbs from Bloom’s Taxonomy that can be used when writing SLOs. These verbs are sorted into three different learning domains (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective). For each domain, the verbs are sorted further from lower-level to higher-level skills. (Higher-level skills are those on the right half of each page.) This document is from the workbook by Janet Fulks.

How Do Outcomes Differ From Objectives?

An outcome (student learning outcome) indicates general overarching concepts in a course or program. Typically, there will be between three and eight outcomes for any particular course or program. Objectives address the details in a course and are related to the specific course content. There will be many individual objectives for any class.

Here is an example taken from a handbook from a workshop given at Laney College in August 2004 (by Janet Fulks and Kate Pluta of Bakersfield College):


Course Objectives:

Discuss differences in nutritional requirements associated with sex, age, and activity.

Describe causes and consequences of nutritional problems.

Identify key factors involved in correcting nutritional behaviors.


Course Student Learning Outcome:

At the end of this nutrition course, a student will be able to 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.