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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato
Office of Institutional Planning, Research and Assessment

Writing Measurable Outcomes

Page address: http://www.mnsu.edu/assessment/resources/measurable_outcomes.html

Writing Measurable Outcomes

DEFINITIONS

Both goals and outcomes are statements of the desired results of the learning process, and both relate to the mission of the university, college and program.

Goals are general, broad, often abstract statements of desired results.

Outcomes are more specific, narrow and measurable. They express a benefit or "value added" that a student can demonstrate upon completion of an academic program or course. An outcome contains all three of the following elements:

  • what is to be learned (knowledge, skill, attitude),
  • what level of learning is to be achieved (criteria, standard), and
  • under what conditions the learning is to be demonstrated (environment, support, etc.).

FROM GOALS TO OUTCOMES

STEP 1: IDENTIFY INSTITUTIONAL VALUES AND GOALS

A) Review MSU's Mission and Goals Statement and your College's mission and goal statements. Review statements of departmental or program goals. For some programs, STEP 1 can end here. Others may need to investigate further.

B) If University, College, Departmental or Program mission and goals do not provide sufficient insight into institutional values or if your program is affected by entities such as outside accrediting agencies or potential employers, you may want to include some of the following steps:

  • review internal and external policy statements for information relevant to educational values,
  • identify values (i.e., "what matters") to students, accrediting agencies, employers, the community,
  • review common themes in instructional materials,
  • ask, "What should the learner expect to gain from the program"?
STEP 2: CONVERSION OF GOALS TO OUTCOMES

A) Identify possible outcomes by brainstorming knowledge, skills, and attitudes you want 
 students to display when they are finished the program.

B) Review the brainstormed knowledge, skills, and attitudes and select those that best reflect the goals of your program.

C) Translate these outcomes into the language of measurable, observable behaviors.

COMPONENTS OF MEASURABLE OUTCOMES

1) Key Phrase: A variation of "TSW" (The student will).

2) Statement of Desired Behaviors (indicator of knowledge, skills or attitudes): An action verb and a description of that action. The more specific the verb, the better the outcome.

3) Statements about conditions: Under what circumstances, in what environment will the student perform?

4) Statements about standards: At what level or to what criteria must the student perform?


NON-EXAMPLES OF MEASURABLE OUTCOMES

Knowledge: The student will understand the relationship between theory and practice.

Skill: Critical Thinking.

Attitude: The student will enjoy music.


EXAMPLES OF MEASURABLE OUTCOMES:

Knowledge: The student will analyze output of impaired speech production perceptually or instrumentally.

Skill:  The student will assess a child's knowledge of word recognition strategies using an informal reading inventory.

Attitude: The student will demonstrate self awareness through the identification of internal values, strengths and weaknesses, and the initiation of change by utilizing resources for personal and professional growth.

BENCHMARK OUTCOMES

These outcomes measure students' knowledge, skills or attitudes at various times across their program experience: entry, developmental, exit, follow-up.  To create benchmark outcomes, add a target date to standard outcome components.

Examples:

Following the completion of this course (target date),

the student will (key phrase)

  • use knowledge of communication theories and principles (statement about standards)
  • to construct messages (description of desired behavior)
  • for a variety of settings (statement about conditions).

Upon completion of the 200 level chemistry courses (target date)

the student will  (key phrase)

  • perform the necessary steps (description of behavior)
  • to identify accurately (statement of standards)
  • a cation given an unknown cation sample (conditions).

PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS:

  • Review your list of potential outcomes, asking, "Can any of these outcomes be combined"? and "Are each of these outcomes essential to our program"?
  • Include only those outcomes that are essential in your assessment plan.
  • Externally accredited programs may necessarily have more outcomes than programs not externally accredited. 
  • Consider developing a matrix of program outcomes and program courses.  In which course/s or activities will outcome "X" be assessed?
  • Establish a timeline for assessment of each outcome.  During which year of your program review cycle will that outcome be assessed?
  • Remember, not every outcome needs to be assessed every year.  All outcomes need to be assessed at least once during the program review cycle.
  •  Assessment is the responsibility of all faculty.
  • There are many ways to measure outcomes.