Student Learning Outcomes

At UW-Madison, each academic major program is required to articulate, adopt and report student learning outcomes. This requirement furthers the university's effort to develop and sustain high-quality academic programs as outlined in the UW-Madison Plan for Assessing Student Learning. View a list of student learning outcomes for each UW-Madison undergraduate and graduate academic program.

Reporting Academic Program Student Learning Outcomes

Chairs of academic units or their designees are responsible for reporting student learning outcomes through a reporting tool. The tool includes separate paths for undergraduate, master's and doctoral program input (current programs excluded from this reporting effort include the MD, PharmD, DVM, Law/JD, MPH, MPAS, and DPT programs). To help prepare, view the following detailed instructions and resources about reporting student learning outcomes for:

Writing Academic Program Student Learning Outcomes

Academic program student learning outcomes state what students are expected to know or be able to do upon completion of the program. Student learning outcomes should be clear and measurable.

  1. Begin with an action verb that denotes the level of learning expected. Terms such as know, understand, learn, appreciate are generally not specific enough to be measurable. Levels of learning and associated verbs may include the following:
    • Remembering and understanding: recall, identify, label, illustrate, summarize.
    • Applying and analyzing: use, differentiate, organize, integrate, apply, solve, analyze.
    • Evaluating and creating: Monitor, test, judge, produce, revise, compose.
  2. Follow the verb with a statement describing the knowledge and abilities to be demonstrated.

Adopt or Modify Student Learning Outcomes

Defining student learning outcomes or expectations requires considerable effort. For the basic approach, consider adopting or modifying student learning outcomes that have been articulated by others. For example:

  • Use and expand upon the Essential Learning Outcomes (ELOs), which have been adopted by UW-Madison as overarching expectations for the student learning experience.
  • Use student learning outcomes or expectations articulated by a professional organization.
  • Tweak the student learning outcome or expectation statements of a closely related discipline at UW-Madison or a peer program at another university.

The College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and the College of Letters and Science have identified broad undergraduate learning outcomes. It may be helpful to refer to these college-level learning outcomes when developing other academic major program learning outcomes:

Examples of Academic Program Student Learning Outcomes

The following examples of academic program student learning goals come from a variety of academic programs across campus and are organized in four broad areas: 1) contextualization of knowledge; 2) praxis and technique; 3) critical thinking; and, 4) research and communication.

1. Contextualization of Knowledge

  • Students will identify, formulate and solve problems using appropriate information and approaches.
  • Students will demonstrate their understanding of major theories, approaches, concepts, and current and classical research findings in the area of concentration.
  • Students will be able to apply knowledge of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and materials science and engineering principles to materials and materials systems.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the basic biology of microorganisms.

2. Praxis & Technique

  • Students will utilize the techniques, skills and modern tools necessary for practice.
  • Students will have an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
  • Students will know and appropriately apply laws, codes, regulations, architectural and interiors standards that protect the health and safety of the public.

3. Critical Thinking

  • Students will recognize, describe, predict, and analyze systems behavior.
  • Students will evaluate evidence to determine and implement best practice.
  • Students will examine technical literature, resolve ambiguity and develop conclusions.
  • Students will synthesize knowledge and use insight and creativity to better understand and improve systems.

4. Research & Communication

  • Students will retrieve, analyze, and interpret the professional and lay literature providing information to both professionals and the public.
  • Students will be capable of proposing original research: outlining a plan, assembling the necessary protocol, and performing the original research.
  • Students will be able to design and conduct experiments, as well as analyze and interpret data.
  • Students will write clear and concise technical reports and research articles.
  • Students will communicate effectively through written reports, oral presentations and discussion.
  • Students will guide, mentor and support peers to achieve excellence in practice of the discipline.
  • Students will be able to work in multi-disciplinary teams and provide leadership on materials-related problems that arise in multi-disciplinary work.

Course-level Student Learning Outcomes

Course-level student learning outcomes describe what students are expected to be able to know or do in a particular course. See more details and resources about writing course-level learning outcomes.