There is a lot of confusion about the difference between a student learning outcome (SLO) and a student performance objective (SPO).

SLOs focus on the big picture to describe the broadest over-arching goals for the class. There should only be a few of them. They are the specific observable characteristics developed by local faculty that allow them to determine or demonstrate evidence that learning has occurred as a result of a specific course, program, activity, or process.

SPOs (Student Performance Objectives), formerly known as TMOs (Terminal Measurable Objectives), are the particular set of objectives that move the student through the content/competencies. These are specific skills that you may teach in order to achieve the outcome.

SLOs are not the same as SPOs. SLOs represent a broader set of skills, knowledge or attitudes that the students take with them when they leave the course, program or institution. In some cases they may be similar; however, the SLO should be broader.

For Example, PHOTO 140: Professional Practices for Photographers

SLO: Students will produce targeted press materials and business communications for initial employment/gallery representation in their chosen area of photographic specialization.


  • Define student's photographic area of specialization.
  • Research professional photographers and/or galleries that are compatible with student's photographic area of specialization.
  • Write a resume, artist's statement, and initial business contact letter.
  • Create an online portfolio featuring student's work, contact information, and writing.

The SPOs are small milestones along the way to meeting the broader SLO.