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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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Writing Measureable Outcomes

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  1. Outcomes are benefits or changes for individuals or populations during or after participating in program ativities. Outcomes may relate to behavior, skills, knowledge, attitude, values, condition, or other attributes. They are what students know, think, can do; or how they behave; or what their condtion is, that is different following the program.

    For example, an outcome for a youth development program that creates intership opportunities for high school you may be: The student after participation in the internship program will be able to list possible career options.

  2. There are general categories of student learning and development outcomes related to the work of student affairs that can serve as a framework for developing specific outcomes. These categories may be helpful as you brainstorm possible outcome. Broad categories embedded in current student affairs literature and research includes:

    Complex cognitive skills – Refelective thought, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and intellectual flexibility
    Kowledge acquisition – Subject matter mastery and knowledge application
    Intrapersonal development – Autonomy, identity, aesthetics, self-esteem, and maturity
    Practical competence – Career preparation, managing one's personal affairs, and economic self-sufficiency
    Civic responsibility – Responsibilities as a citizen in a democratic society and commitment to democratic ideals
    Academic achievement – The ability to earn satisfactory grades in courses
    Persistence – The ability to pursure a degree to graduation or achieve personal educational objectives

  3. Identify possible outcomes by brainstorming knowledge, skills, and attitudes, etc. you want students to display when they have finished the program. Refer to The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS Standards) for your unit as a resource in brainstorming outcomes for your department.

  4. Review the brainstormed possible outcomes and select those that best reflect the goals of your program. 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 to your assessment plan.

  5. Translate these outcomes into the language of specific, measurable, observabel behaviors. An outcome contains all three of the following elements:

    • What is to be learned (knowledge, skill, attitude, etc.),
    • What level of learning is to be achieved (criteria, standard), and
    • Under what conditions the learning is to be demonstrated (environment, support, etc.), or
    • What services are to be provided.

    Outcomes have three distinguishable characteristics:

    • the specificed action by the student must be observable.
    • the specified action by the student must be measurable.
    • the specified action must be done by the student.

    The ultimate test when writing a measureable outcome is whether or not the action taken by the student can be assessed.

    The following are examples of unclear outcomes:

    • Participants will understand the nine reasons for conducing needs assessment.
    • Participants will develop an appreciation of cultural diversity in the workplace.

    If you ask the simple question ("Can it be measure?"), you see readily that these outcomes have shortcomings. They are not measurable. The same outcomes can be modified by changing the action verbs.

    • Participants will list nine raeasons for conducting a needs assessment.
    • Participants will summarie in writing their thoughts and feelings about cultural diversity in the workplace.

    Since the learner's performance should be observable and measureable, the verb chosen for each outcomes statement should be an action verb which results in overt behavior that can be observed and measured.

    Sample action verbs are: compile, create, plan, revise, analyze, design, select, utilize, apply, demonstrate, prepare, use, compute, discuss, explain, compare, rate, critique.

    Certain verbs are unclear and subject to different interpretations in terms of what actions they are specifying. These types of verbs should be avoided: know, become aware of, appreciate, learn, understand,and become familiar with.


Measuring Program Outcomes: A Practical Approach. United Way of America.

Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Phillips, Louis. The Continuing Education Guide: the CEU and Other Professional Development Criteria./Hunt Publishing Co., 1994

Schuh, J.H., Upcraft, M. L., and Associates. Assessment Practice in Student Affairs: An Applications Manual. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.