Blog Post

Ten Learning Outcomes That Inspire--Not Police—Learning #neweducation

 

This is a post about "Learning Outcomes" and you'll be surprised to hear it isn't a rant.  I’m no big fan of the whole “outcomes” language and mentality--or I wasn't until the day I thought to myself, "Why not ask students to write them and see what they think are good outcomes."  As usual, I was abashed at what I learned. 

Among other things, I learned that my students wanted learning outcomes because their profs rarely say "why" it is important to learn the subject. Profs are great at "what" and "how" but rarely take the time to explain "why."  If we have dedicated our lives to a subject, we think it is important.  A new learner might have no idea why something is or isn't important t their lives.  When they write their learning outcomes, it helps all of us to think how the subject matter of the course relates to everything else.

The other thing I learned from my students writing learning outcomes: they were not cynical. They wrote ones that were deep and meaningful. They want a great education.  They deserve one. 

I now often begin classes with an exercise where students design aspirational outcomes for our course. We talk about outcomes and the bureaucracy of "outcomes," and the problems with quantifying, the limits of metrics and quantifying. 

And then we turn it around and find something meaningful we can aspire to together.  I usually do this as a "think pair share" or another inventory method so everyone can discuss their ideas with someone and share them (usually in a Google Doc) with the class.

On the last day of class, we then revisit and reexamine to see how close we came to our shared goals.

Learning Outcomes:

1--Learn to respect one’s intellectual life and education as a precious gift that no one can steal from you

2--Be challenged by a scholar of impeccable standards to succeed educationally to one’s own very highest standards in any endeavor

3--Learn to absorb and transfer wisdom from lectures, class discussion, and scholarship into one’s own cogent thinking and writing

4--Form an appreciation of the importance of penetrating, thorough critical thinking and use it, in every way possible, to guide and protect one’s future life and work

5--Gain the highest respect for intellectual rigor, including self-respect

6--Fight for the dignity and justice of all peoples, regardless of race, religion, national background, gender, ability, or sexuality

7--Come to understand how everyday incidents—the small victories and constant abrasions of life and politics--are deeply grounded in histories and cultural practices, including those of racism or other inherited and structural forms of discrimination that are sometimes so widely practiced they are invisible to those who perpetuate them

8--Become a lifelong advocate for public support of public higher education because you have witnessed the way it has changed your life and you now believe that, together, we can use what we have learned here as a tool and a weapon to inform and improve the very flawed world in which we live.

9-- Stay alert to surprise.  Many times—in class and out--the best learning outcomes are the ones you never expected. (From Prof Barry S.)

10--Contribute to this list.  What are we missing?  What are your aspirations for your learning, in the classroom and out? Please use the Comments section to add to this list.

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