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Objectives and Outcomes of Service Learning

Designing a course that includes a service or civic learning component should begin with learning goals, specify learning objectives, identify learning activities, and determine the methods by which students‘ success in achieving the goals and objectives will be assessed:

A learning goal is general and provides direction for students and the instructor. It is a desired outcome stated in value-terms that aren‘t readily quantified.

A learning objective is an outcome that will be achieved; that is measurable; and that follows deductively from a learning goal.

A learning strategy is a ―means to an end‖—a method for achieving one or more learning objectives. These may come in the form of classroom strategies for assignments and must contribute to the achievement of learning objectives.

A learning assessment method is a means for measuring the achievement of one or more learning objectives. There are two general types: (1) formative assessment, which emphasizes feedback to students about the quality of their learning, and (2) summative assessment, which evaluates the quality of student learning. Use of learning assessment methods provides feedback to the instructor on the alignment between goals, objectives, strategies, and assessment methods.

Student Learning Outcomes: Six Levels of Learning

Student learning outcomes for a course may range over several ―levels‖ of learning, from the absorption of facts to the ability to think critically, solve problems, or generate genuinely novel thoughts. Each statement of a student learning outcome should include a verb that represents the level of learning that‘s expected.

Here are some examples of using verbs to write an SLO:

  • To measure comprehension. Example: “Discuss the basic tenets of deconstructionism.”
  • To measure application. Example: “Calculate the deflection of a beam under uniform loading.”
  • To measure analysis. Example: “In the president‘s State of the Union Address, which statements are based on facts and which are based on statements of value?”
  • To measure synthesis. Example: “How would you restructure the school day to reflect children's developmental needs?”
  • To measure evaluation. Example: “Should Bach's Mass in B Minor be regarded as a classic? Why or why not?”

Using Bloom’s classification of cognitive skills to compose SLOs

Bloom‘s classification of cognitive skills appears below. Each skill is defined and associated with various behavioral indicators. Use this information to stimulate your thinking about course SLOs and the learning activities for achieving those outcomes.

Knowledge. Definition: Beliefs that are “true”(well-justified, warranted, well-supported, etc.) in the estimation of persons prepared and experienced adequately to determine whether such terms apply). Knowledge can be retained and reported without being understood adequately to apply it, critique it, or use it creatively. Indicators: The ability to define, describe, identify, label, list, match, memorize, point to, recall, select, state, etc.

Comprehension. Definition: The “deeper” (more complete, more sophisticated, more nuanced, etc.) understanding of a true belief that enables one to apply it, critique it, or use it creatively. Indicators: The ability to interpret, analyze, apply, critique, refine, enhance, annotate, convert, expand/ extend, generalize, give examples of, infer, paraphrase, predict, reassess, summarize, translate, etc.

Application. Definition: The use of a concept to comprehend a possible (hypothesized, predicted, purported, suspected) instantiation (i.e., a particular instance, occurrence, or manifestation) of the general phenomenon or entity named/described by the concept. Indicators: The ability to apply, adapt, gather, sort, subsume, construct, demonstrate, discover, illustrate, use, manipulate, relate, show, solve, model, etc.

Analysis. Definition: The “deconstruction,” “reverse engineering,” “subdividing,” or “breaking down” of a thing into its constituent components in order to comprehend the features (connections, structure, functions, purposes, operations, processes, relationships, organizing principles, etc.) of the whole. Indicators: The ability to identify, distinguish, compare, contrast, diagram, differentiate, dissect, model, select, separate, sort, subdivide, etc.

Synthesis. Definition: The construction, creation, invention, conceptualization, or description of a new (different, changed, altered, extended, reconceived, invented, discovered, etc.) entity or phenomenon by assembling, relating, or connecting other entities or phenomena in such a way that the latter can be viewed, understood, described, explained, etc. as parts, features, or components of a new whole. Indicators: The ability to blend, build, combine, create, compile, compose, design, formulate, generate, hypothesize, plan, predict, invent, imagine, produce, reorder, revise, reimagine, reconceive, change, alter, extend, etc.

Evaluation. Definition: Judging, asses-sing, determining, assigning, gauging, appraising, etc.—with reference to criteria, conditions, indicators, requirements, etc.—the value, worth, utility, usability, suit-ability, importance, excellence, significance, etc. of an entity or phenomenon (including ideas, concepts, constructs, models, theories, hypotheses, procedures, methods, etc.) for a specified purpose, goal, objective, situation, condition, circumstance, eventuality, possibility, etc. Indicators: The ability to judge, adjudicate, assess, gauge, estimate, choose, conclude, criticize, defend, grade, prioritize, recommend, referee, reject, select, support, etc.