Learning Outcomes – linking verbs to assessments

We all know that writing outcomes for courses and even individual lessons can be daunting. One of the problems is simply writing a sentence and using a good verb! We all want our objectives/outcomes to be measurable, and choosing the right verb is what determines how an outcome will be measured.

If you write (A successful student will…):

Use verbs correctly.

What does “use” mean? Will the student be writing? Making an oral presentation? Brainstorming?  A better verb might be:

Correct verbs within a paragraph.
or perhaps
Write a plot outline with correct verbs.

Then, when it’s time to assess the students, faculty will be able to look at observable proof.  Perhaps: what a student wrote (did the correct the verbs within the paragraph? Were the verbs in their plot outline correct?) and match up assessment activities with objectives.

Another trick with objectives is just what the previous paragraph says – match up assessments to the outcomes. And again, it all comes down to the verbs.

If your outcome says: Add two-digit numbers successfully.

But your assessment is: Write about the invention of addition by the Summarians.

The assessment is not measuring the outcome.  Doh!

So where am I going with all this…

Verbs used in outcomes are important and should be selected carefully.  Avoid vague terms such as “use” or “know”.  How would you measure if someone “knows how to graph a math equation”?  Rather, these verbs below might be helpful (and this is *not* meant to be a comprehensive list of verbs):

The Helpful Hundred – Planning for Instruction
Smaldino, Lowther, and Russell (2008) suggest 100 verbs that highlight performance. Each of these verbs is observable and measurable, making them work quite well in writing objectives for learning. This is not to say that these 100 verbs are the only ones are can be used effectively; however, they provide a great reference.
add compute drill label predict state
alphabetize conduct estimate locate prepare subtract
analyze construct evaluate make present suggest
apply contrast   explain manipulate produce swing
arrange convert extrapolate match pronounce tabulate
assemble correct fit measure read throw
attend cut generate modify reconstruct time
bisect deduce   graph multiply reduce translate
build defend grasp name remove type
cave define grind operate revise underline
categorize demonstrate hit order select verbalize
choose derive hold organize sketch verify
classify describe identify outline ski weave
color design illustrate pack solve weigh
compare designate indicate paint sort write
complete diagram install   plot specify
compose distinguish kick position square
Source:   Smaldino, S. E., Lowther, D. L., & Russell, J. D. (2008). Instructional   Media and Technologies for Learning (9th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

4 thoughts on “Learning Outcomes – linking verbs to assessments

  1. How does one ‘cave’? I didn’t know that was a verb! I do like your post and it is helpful in writing objectives.

  2. Let’s say I am teaching my students past continuous … and now I am asking them to complete the sentences with the correct form of the verbs in the box. ( what can be a LeArnish outcome her)

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