Learning Outcomes

Introduction: Overview

Most students are very aware of what they must do to earn a passing grade in a given course. Those requirements typically are printed in the achievement requirements and syllabus documents distributed by instructors at the beginning of each term. On the basis of those requirements, each student’s performance is assessed and awarded a grade. However, in the best colleges and universities, student learning is also measured through the use of student learning outcomes. Student learning outcomes are statements that describe the knowledge and skill that students will obtain by the end of a course or program. General Studies Writing’s learning outcomes which follow, for example, consist of a list of the knowledge and skills that students who successfully complete their GSW courses will achieve as a direct result of their participation in the GSW Program.  Learning outcomes can be measured by faculty, but they can also be used very effectively by students to assess their own progress as they pass through their courses. As well, programs can assess their own performance by determining the extent to that  students are achieving the learning outcomes. Programs then use that information to improve their courses and instructional methods. Because the General Studies Writing Program is committed to continuous quality improvement in course offerings and instructional methods, the program administrators regularly assess the extent to which the program is successful in helping students achieve GSW’s learning outcomes.

Rhetorical Knowledge

By the end of their General Studies Writing courses, students will be able to

  • Focus on purpose for writing.
  • Respond effectively to the needs of a variety of audiences, with an emphasis on academic audiences.
  • Employ rhetorical strategies that are well suited to the rhetorical situation, including appropriate   voice, tone, and levels of formality.
  • Use strategies of argument appropriate to the rhetorical situation.
  • Write in academic genres which include argumentative essays, critiques, and researched writing.

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

By the end of their General Studies Writing courses, students will be able to

  • Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communication.
  • Conceptualize academic writing assignments as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing appropriate primary and secondary sources.
  • Engage in multiple modes of inquiry (e.g., interviews, questionnaires, observations, library sources, internet sources).
  • Demonstrate critical thinking, reading, and writing strategies when crafting arguments that synthesize multiple points of view.
  • Accurately and productively critique their own and others’ writing.
  • Critically assess the credibility, currency, and relevance of source materials in both traditional and digital formats.


By the end of their General Studies Writing courses, students will be able to

  • Employ a recursive process in crafting successful texts.
  • Employ personalized strategies for generating, revising, editing, and proofreading that serve their individual needs as a writer.
  • Contribute to effective collaborative activities that emphasize the social aspects of writing processes.
  • Use efficient search strategies to identify and locate relevant materials from both traditional and digital library resources.

Knowledge of Conventions

By the end of their General Studies Writing courses, students will be able to

  • Use appropriate formats for academic papers (to include elements of page layout and conventional documentation of source materials).
  • Demonstrate control over the conventions of source synthesis, including the use of metadiscourse and coherence devices.
  • Craft clear sentences using conventional syntax.
  • Control surface features, such as grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and spelling.

Composing in Electronic Environments

By the end of their General Studies Writing courses, students will be able to

  • Engage in the electronic research and composing processes.
  • Locate, evaluate, organize, use, and acknowledge research material collected from electronic sources, including scholarly library databases, other official databases (for example, government databases), and informal electronic networks and Internet sources.
  • Disseminate texts in both print and electronic forms.
  • Acknowledge and make use of the differences in both textual and visual rhetorical strategies.

Values Exploration

By the end of their General Studies Writing courses, students will be able to

  • Articulate the role that their own value systems play in their writing, research, and learning processes.
  • Demonstrate respect when writing about and/or discussing viewpoints other than their own.
  • Recognize the value of cooperating and working effectively in collaborative research and writing activities.
  • Recognize and appreciate their emerging abilities as writers, while also recognizing areas where more growth and practice are warranted.
  • Recognize their role as part of an active learning community that values academic honesty.
  • Demonstrate sound judgment when deciding the degree to which others may contribute to their writing processes and products.
  • Recognize the value of developing personal processes for writing.
  • Articulate the role and value of writing in their learning processes.