Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

Course goals and objectives

This section of your syllabus will help students answer such questions as:

  • "Is this the course I thought it was when I registered?"
  • "Is this a class I'm going to enjoy?"
  • "Do the goals and objectives of this course correspond with my needs and interests?"

If the answer to any of these questions is "no," it's better for both faculty and students to find out on the first day of the term when adjustments can still be made. A description which conveys your enthusiasm for this course can also be a positive influence on the attitude the students will bring to the class.

Faculty sometimes use the words "goals" and "objectives" and “learning outcomes” to mean something very similar to "student outcomes" They are all ways to provide students with a clear statement of what they will gain as a result of the course. Your learning outcomes should be student-centered and concrete. It is also useful to tell students why your outcomes are important.

Ideally your student learning outcomes will be student-centered as opposed to teaching-centered - the outcomes will describe what your students will do as a result of taking your class rather than what you as the instructor will do. 

For more information about establishing learning outcomes for your course

This link provides some examples of changing teacher-centered outcomes to student-centered outcomes Converting Teacher-Centered Outcomes to Learner-Centered Outcomes.

Ideally your learning outcomes will be concrete. Create learning outcomes that are concrete enough to be measured. Use action verbs to describe what students will be able to DO.

Example of converting non-concrete outcomes to concrete outcomes in a biology course


    Understand how society impacts biological research


    Give examples of the impact of history and society on biological discoveries and    


Provide students with an explanation as to WHY your outcomes are important

Telling your students why your outcomes are important and relevant to them can increase their motivation for participating in the course. Below are some examples of relevance statements for learning outcomes.

Example from a research-skills course:

    If you participate fully and complete this course, by the end, you should be prepared to

    successfully conduct college-level research.

Example from an education course:

    To learn about teaching you must experience teaching.  As such, you will engage in

    many teaching practice activities that will prepare you to teach.

This section of your syllabus is also the place where you can make it clear to students how your course aligns with the university's student learning outcomes for undergraduate education. In May 2007, the Faculty Senate approved seven student learning outcomes that define what undergraduate students, regardless of major, will be able to do when they leave the University of Minnesota. At the time of receiving a bachelor's degree, students:

  • Can identify, define, and solve problems
  • Can locate and critically evaluate information
  • Have mastered a body of knowledge and a mode of inquiry
  • Understand diverse philosophies and cultures within and across societies
  • Can communicate effectively
  • Understand the role of creativity, innovation, discovery, and expression across disciplines
  • Have acquired skills for effective citizenship and life-long learning.

These learning outcomes articulate a set of institutional values and guidelines for course and curriculum development. Making students aware of these connections can help them place your course within the larger framework of their education, help them draw connections between your subject and others they are studying, and prepare them to apply what they're learning in the classroom in "real world" environments.

They also provide students with a language for reflecting on their undergraduate education and talking about it with others. It can be useful, then, to include which student learning outcomes your particular course meets on your syllabus.

This site provides you with examples of how other University of Minnesota faculty have incorporated SLOs into their courses Course Specific Student Learning Outcomes Syllabi Examples

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