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Information Literacy & Pedagogy Toolkit for Librarians

What Do You Want Students to Learn?

Can you show them all the library resources?
I just need them to be able to use the databases.

Can you talk to them about citing sources?

                                       --instructors everywhere

It can be easy to build a class around these typical show-them-how-to requests, but meaningful information literacy education will only take place by shifting the question from What do I want to show students? to What do I want students to be able to do? That's all a learning outcome is--your educational hope for your students. 

Characteristics of Good Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes can be expressed as knowledge, skills, or attitudes you hope students will gain. A good learning outcome is

  • measurable or judge-able.
  • clear to the students, faculty, and librarian.
  • appropriate in scale to the situation/class.
  • integrated, developmental, and transferable.

An Outcomes Formula

Although there is no one agreed upon definition of learning outcomes among all educators, the following outcome formula is relatively standard in information literacy education circles. 

Learning outcomes formula: observable behavior + in order to + reason why

Observable Behavior: Begin with a verb that reflects the desired skill and appropriate cognitive level. Select verbs that are measurable, observable or "judge-able." Use Bloom's Taxonomy (either the original or revised) as a source of verbs to creative your learning outcomes.

In Order To: Serves as a bridge bridge between the behavior and the rationale.

Reason Why:  Describes the way the student will apply the ability. It creates relevance and connection for the student.

Sample Outcomes

Here are a few examples of the outcomes formula in action:

  • Students will develop website evaluation criteria in order to identify information sources appropriate to their research.
  • Students will demonstrate the use of Boolean operators in order to develop effective search statements.
  • Students will distinguish between primary and secondary research in order to identify primary research articles. 
  • Students will select subject-specific databases in order to locate relevant research.