Learning Outcomes and Assessment

Assessment is an ongoing process aimed at understanding and improving student learning.  It involves:
  • making our expectations explicit and public;
  • setting appropriate criteria and high standards for learning quality;
  • systematically gathering, analyzing and interpreting evidence to determine how well performance matches these expectations and standards;
  • using the resulting information to document, explain, and improve performance.
When [assessment] is embedded effectively in larger institutional systems, assessment can help to focus our collective attention, 
examine our assumptions and create a shared culture dedicated to assuring and improving the quality of higher education.” (Thomas A. Angelo)


What is a learning outcome?

Learning outcomes are the skills and/or knowledge that a student can expect to have upon completion of a specific educational task (course, program, degree, etc.). There are different levels of outcomes: course, program, and institutional. There are also outcomes for student services and administrative units.


Every college uses slightly different terms to describe the types of learning outcomes. College of Alameda uses the following terms:

  1. Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) to describe learning outcomes for courses
  2. Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) to describe learning outcomes for degrees and certificates
  3. Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) to describe the learning outcomes for all College of Alameda students who transfer or earn a degree or certificate.

Additionally, Service Area Outcomes (SAOs) describe the learning outcomes for student services and administrative units.

  • Why are learning outcomes used?
    Learning outcomes are assessed on a regular cycle in order to ensure that our students are meeting our stated goals and to continually improve the quality of the instruction and services that we provide.
  • Who does the assessment work?
    Everyone at the college is engaged in assessment work, whether they are course instructors evaluating SLO’s for the class, service units assessing the provided services or senior administration assessing the college goals.
  • How often are learning outcomes assessed?
    All outcomes are assessed at least once every three years. Three years cycles have been developed for all courses and programs to ensure that assessment work is continuous and current.
  • Where is all of the assessment data kept?
    Course SLOs are a part of all course outlines. They, along with assessment data, are documented in Taskstream. Taskstream allows collection of assessment data in one location.  In the future, Curricunet Meta will replace Taskstream as our data storage organization for assessment information.
  • Who is charged with organizing assessment work for the college?
    The Planning, Research, and Institutional Effectiveness Committee (PRIEC) is charged with keeping track of assessment work, organizing professional development activities, reviewing data, and educating the college. PRIEC meets monthly. In addition, college administration and department chairs play key roles in planning and keeping track of outcomes assessments in their areas, and three SLO coordinators for Divisions 1, 2, and non-instructional units available for assistance.
content used by permission of Merritt College, Dr. J. Shanoski