Learning and Program Outcomes

There are at least two types of outcomes that can be measured in the cycle of assessment. Most prominent in SCL are program/operational outcomes and student learning outcomes.

Program/Operational Outcomes illustrate what a program should accomplish. They can address quality, quantity, fiscal sustainability, facilities and infrastructure, or growth.

Learning Outcomes are statements of what students will be able to do, know, or believe as a result of participating in a learning activity which could be a class, a project, an educational program, or an individual interaction. “They describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that [students or others with whom we interact] take with them from a learning experience” (Lundquist, 2016).

Campus Labs (2015), the company that provides us with our survey development tool, Baseline, offers a simple structure for writing an outcome, called the ABCD model. It is very helpful in building learning outcomes and a little more challenging for program/operational outcomes. Here is the model (the first bullet is for learning outcomes the second/third are for program/operational outcomes):


  • Who does the outcome pertain to?
  • Who or what is the unit of measurement (Parents, dollars, complaints)


  • What do you expect the audience to know/be able to do? (This needs to include an action verb to describe the learning, check Bloom’s Taxonomy for guidance)
  • What do you expect to happen or change?


  • Under what conditions or circumstances will the learning occur?
  • Under what conditions or circumstances will the outcome occur? (Over a specific amount of time, upon hiring someone, finishing a training)

Degree/How much

  • How much will be accomplished, how well will the behavior need to be performed, and to what level?
  • What is the success criteria?  What specific numbers or direction will you see?
  • To what level of efficiency or effectiveness?

Here are a couple of examples of outcomes that use the ABCD method:

Students who attend a resume writing workshop will be able to identify three transferable skills to include on their resume.

Student Services Information Technology (SSIT) will reduce the number of calls to the help desk by providing monthly training sessions for staff each semester.

SCL Assessment and Planning will increase staff confidence in writing learning outcomes by 20% by providing training, consulting, blog posts, and web-based materials.

Once you have written outcomes for your program, service, or office, it is important to review them against the following criteria (the 3 Ms) (Campus Labs 2015):

When you are confident that your outcomes are meaningful, manageable, and measurable, then it is time to start planning your programs and services around those outcomes. Once the programs and services have begun or are completed, you will analyze your results and use those results to make improvements to future programs/services/operations.