Learning Outcomes at Cornell

Learning opportunities abound at Cornell: from the lecture hall to the residence hall; from the laboratory to the athletic field. This large and complex institution offers many programs of study to a diverse student body. It is an international leader with a tradition of excellence, and it has advanced a rich legacy in many fields since its founding in 1865.

Within this complexity, there are common, shared themes across the various colleges and programs that are intended to shape the undergraduate experience at Cornell. These represent a set of institutional learning goals that are achieved through an array of programs, courses, and experiences. In addition, each college has established its own learning goals, appropriate for its mission.

Taken together, a Cornell education is much greater than the sum of its parts. We foster initiative, integrity, and excellence in an environment of collegiality, civility, and responsible stewardship. Our community fosters personal discovery and growth, nurtures scholarship and creativity across a broad range of knowledge, and engages men and women from every segment of society in this endeavor.

Cornell graduates will:

  • Demonstrate disciplinary knowledge and its uses by developing a systematic and coherent understanding of an academic field of study including technical dimensions, integrating information, skills and experiences, and synthesizing ideas in original ways.
  • Apply analytical and critical thought to a body of knowledge; evaluate arguments; identify relevant assumptions or implications. Formulate coherent arguments, exhibiting alertness to the possibility that something could be done better than it has been done before, and that critical engagement with a problem to be solved may lead to a creative solution.
  • Express ideas clearly and persuasively orally and in writing; work, communicate, and engage effectively with others using media as appropriate; be able to use these skills to support consensus-building, collaboration, teamwork, and facilitating outcomes.
  • Demonstrate scientific and quantitative reasoning by understanding cause and effect relationships; defining problems; using symbolic thought; applying scientific principles, and solving problems with no single correct answer.
  • Direct their own learning; work independently; formulate learning goals, select, manage and reflect upon their learning; identify appropriate resources; take initiative; manage a project through to completion; self-assess and seek additional information when needed.
  • Use information from a variety of sources strategically, appropriately and responsibly, uphold principles of academic integrity; access, and evaluate information from print and electronic sources.
  • Engage in the process of discovery or creation; demonstrate the ability to work productively, creatively, and artfully in a laboratory setting, studio, library, or field environment.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and awareness of different cultural practices, values, beliefs, and worldviews, and an understanding of their own cultural perspective; communicate effectively and respectfully with individuals from different backgrounds and across a multicultural society; demonstrate curiosity, flexibility, adaptability, and tolerance for ambiguity; investigate themselves and others as cultural beings, understanding the implied values and assumptions that underlie cultural norms and traditions.
  •  Embrace moral and ethical values in conducting their lives; make judgments about the quality and value of ideas, theories, and information; promote honesty, trust, fairness, respect, and responsibility; formulate a position or argument about an ethical issue from multiple perspectives; use ethical practices in all work.
  •  Take responsibility for their own behavior and well-being; direct their own activities toward the achievement of objectives, including goal setting, decision making, planning, scheduling, and time management; care for themselves responsibly; demonstrate awareness of themselves in relation to others.
  • Engage in their communities, demonstrating responsibility to a larger community or public; connect positively with and in communities of various sizes and composition through and outside the classroom; participate in community engagement or civic action to benefit the public good.

Learn more about how our students are achieving these goals

Undergraduate College Learning Goals

Graduate and Professional School Learning Goals