Penn State Definitions of Goals, Objectives and Outcomes

Although these are the typical meanings of these terms, many people use them synonymously and/or interchangeably. Goals are typically more general, objectives and outcomes more specific. Objectives look toward the future, outcomes reflect the current state. Thus, objectives are developed at the beginning of the assessment or instruction process, whereas outcomes are the results of tests or assignments that address the objectives. These terms are also scalable. Academic programs have goals, objectives, and outcomes, but courses, course modules, class sessions, and even topics within a single class session can have goals, objectives, and outcomes. More information on writing goals and objectives. [These should link to revised pages]


Please note: Some accrediting organizations use or define these terms differently. If your program is accredited by a disciplinary or professional organization, use the terminology as it is used by that organization.