Learning outcomes are a way to articulate the learning goals for your course. Formulating specific learning outcomes for your course/students is a way to conceptualize both your teaching philosophy and course objectives into a tangible and measurable goal. Much like conceptualizing topics for research, this process can be very helpful in transforming broad goals into succinct outcome which instructors are able to communicate to students and assess whether students achieve these outcomes. If you are new to the university, it would be a good idea to consult your department about any specific formatting or program student learning outcomes you should be aware of or may need to incorporate into your course.
Holly Martin (Assistant Dean and Academic Advisor University of Notre Dame) helps introduce learning outcomes in this way:
Defining learning objectives
Learning objectives answer the question: what should students learn through academic advising? Specifically, what should advisees learn to do as a result of academic advising; what information should they be able to articulate and what skills should they be able to demonstrate? Learning objectives are not the same as a list of advisor/advisee responsibilities. Outlines of advisor/advisee responsibilities are often an important part of clarifying expectations and sometimes have learning objectives embedded in them. However, they are focused on behavior that makes learning possiblee.g.,attendance at group meetings and prompt communication. Learning objectives are focused on clarifying the intended learning outcomes rather than the behavior that will make those outcomes more likely.
The purpose of advising learning objectives
It has long been known that developing learning objectives helps classroom instructors achieve better clarity about what they want to accomplish in their classes, and greater clarity about what techniques they need to use to achieve those goals. Specific learning objectives also help students achieve those learning objectives more easily because they know, from the beginning, the goals of the course. Learning objectives give students a way to think about and talk about what they are learning. In addition, specific learning objectives make it possible to more reasonably assess how well the process of teaching and learning is progressing.
These resources provide good information about the development of learning outcomes.
Student learning outcomes can be very helpful when creating your course for various reasons. Some people have begun to see student learning outcomes as a bureaucratic tool that gets shoehorned into courses through necessity. But as descried above, thinking about the ultimate goals of a course in the early phases of designing a course can be done in a manner that involves emphasizes pedagogy and helps an instructor infuse their philosophy throughout the course. Backwards design is a technique that takes this approach.
Understanding by Design by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe