Student Learning Outcomes
All documentation for student learning outcomes and assessment such as institutional learning outcomes (ILO’s), program outcomes (PLO’s), course outcomes (SLO’s), evidence of assessment and assessment reports are now available through an online database called Taskstream.
For assistance with student learning outcomes contact the SLO Coordinator for your division: Eileen Clifford firstname.lastname@example.org for Division I; Matthew Goldstein email@example.com for Division II; Jamal Mears firstname.lastname@example.org for Student Services and Institutional ILO.
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|What are Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)?What are the Accreditation Requirements Regarding SLOs for Courses, Programs, Certificates and Degrees?What are the steps that COA Departments should take regarding SLOs and Assessment?
Student learning outcomes are statements of what students will be able to do after taking a particular class or completing a particular program. Student learning outcomes can be written for individual classes, entire programs, or for the institution as a whole. Student learning outcomes should be general in scope. They should be written using active verbs (Blooms taxonomy) that describe what the student will be able to DO and they should also indicate how the outcome will be measured or assessed (think rubric).
How Do Outcomes Differ From Objectives?
Objectives address the details in a course and are related to the specific course content that will be covered by the instructor. There will be many individual objectives for any class. This objectives list must be exhaustive enough to meet the requirements of equivalent classes at UC and CSU so that the course will articulate. Objectives tell students what supporting skills, knowledge, and attitudes they will learn during a course that lead to mastery of the course SLOs.
Whereas, SLOs (student learning outcomes) indicate what students will be ABLE TO DO after completing the course. Typically, there will be between three and eight student learning outcomes for any particular course or program. An SLO also provides a context for learning and moves toward a means to evaluate the student’s performance. The primary rule to be applied when formulating SLOs is that they must be assessable; there must be some way to measure student success in achieving those goals. Include within the SLO the criteria that must be met in order for students to demonstrate to you that they have achieved the desired outcome.
Below is an example of Course Objectives and Student Learning Outcomes for a Nutrition Course:
Nutrition Course Objectives:
Discuss differences in nutritional requirements associated with sex, age, and activity.
Describe causes and consequences of nutritional problems.
Identify key factors involved in correcting nutritional behaviors.
Nutrition Course Student Learning Outcomes:
At the end of this nutrition course, a student will be able to analyze a documented nutritional problem, determine a strategy to correct the problem, and write a draft nutritional policy addressing the broader scope of the problem.
The accreditation standards require us to develop student learning outcomes (SLOs) for each course, program, certificate, and degree. Then we are expected to check to make sure that our curriculum is teaching these outcomes, develop an assessment plan to assess these outcomes, collect assessment data and use the results to improve the program. This must be done continuously as an on-going cycle. In addition, we will need to provide evidence that we assessing SLOs and routinely examining our process for assessment.
- Develop SLOs for each course in the department. If your department offers many courses, start with the most popular core courses. When you develop SLOs, there should be discussions between all instructors teaching the same course. The SLOs you develop should be common SLOs for all instructors teaching the course. Submit SLOs through Taskstream.
- Make sure to include the SLOs on all course syllabi.
- Develop SLOs for any programs, degrees or certificates your department offers. There should be lots of input and discussion between department members while developing the outcomes. Post these program-level SLOs on your department website and in department brochures. Submit Program, degree and certificate SLOs in Taskstream
- Decide which outcomes you will assess first, and submit an assessment plan in Taskstream
- Assess your course and program SLOs. This requires collecting information on how many students were able to achieve each student learning outcome. You can collect this information by examining papers, projects, performances, or other assignments that your students submit. You might also use a selection of test questions that directly relate to the outcome you are assessing. You might also give a survey to assess one or more outcomes. Input your assessment evidence in Taskstream
- Reflect on the results of your assessments, and implement changes/improvements to the course or program. Report on your results in Taskstream.
- Program/Degree/Certificate level Student Learning Outcomes are more general and describe what the student should be able to do after successfully completing the course or courses that make up that Program/Degree/Certificate.
- Meet with the SLO coordinator for your division for one-on-one help on how to get started.
- Here is a recommended sequence of steps for writing and assessing Certificates and Degree SLOs:
- Identify the courses that define the program. Programs may include several courses or even courses from different disciplines.
- Review course outlines and other course documents to determine possible degree/certificate learning outcomes. Program faculty should collaborate to develop outcomes.
- Familiarize yourself with SLOs for your Dept./Prog./Certificate at other comparable institutions. May give you some ideas.
- Focus on the outcomes that you intend to measure.
- Decide on the outcomes to be measured, the method for measuring..
- Determine an assessment point (or points) in the program and determine criteria for success.
- Collect or gather the data from the students.
- Analyze the data and determine what responses are needed.
- Write up a Summary Report of the assessment methods and results for accreditation evidence. Input in Taskstream.
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) describe what a student should be able to DO at the end of a course or program.
1. SLOs use action verbs from Blooms taxonomy with an emphasis on higher-order thinking skills. To get some ideas, view examples of course SLOs for other COA courses in Taskstream.
2. There should be 3-8 SLOs for each class or program. When in doubt, fewer is better.
3. SLOs should be included in course syllabi.
4. SLOs should be the same for all sections of a course. However, each instructor may include on their course syllabi additional outcomes and/or course expectations.
5. SLOs should be written in language that students (and those outside the field) are able to understand.
6. SLOs are typically not content-specific.
7. SLOs should focus on big-picture, overarching concepts, skills, or attitudes.
8. SLOs ask students to apply what they have learned.
9. SLOs must be assessable and should suggest or imply an assessment. If they do include the method of assessment, it should not be too specific – a given SLO for a course should be appropriate for anyone teaching the course.
10. Avoid starting SLOs with the words such as “understand”, “learn”, “know”, etc. since these indicate internal mental processes for the students. (It might be possible to use words like this if the assessment method is indicated in the SLO.) Focus instead on what students will be able to do, produce, or demonstrate. Again, Blooms taxonomy provides SLO friendly verbs.
11. Ideally, each course or program should include SLOs from more than one domain (cognitive, psychomotor, and affective).
12. When writing SLOs, think about how you will assess each one. They must be measurable.
13. Next, write an Assessment Plan (what you will assess, how you will assess it and when you will assess it) in Taskstream.
14. Finally, assess the learning outcomes and write up the results in Taskstream
15. Use the results to improve your courses.
You should have defined your SLOs before you begin assessing. Assessment is the process of collecting evidence to see if students are actually learning the outcomes. Part of assessment includes deciding what to assess and when (Assessment Plan), creating an assessment tool/method that measures the identified SLOs and creating a rubric to assist in gathering evidence that will be used to assess and improve courses/programs.
When getting started with assessment:
- Keep it simple and sustainable. Start small.
- You don’t have to assess every outcome every year.
- Accrediting commissions aren’t necessarily interested in the content of our assessment results. They want to know that we have processes in place that insure that assessment and improvement is occurring on our campus.
Assessment is supposed to be faculty-driven. So if we as faculty are supposed to decide how to do it, it would be a good idea for us to figure out what it is and the many things that can be done to assess student learning. The good news is that there are lots of possibilities, and nobody HAS to do it in any particular way. You can choose assessment methods that will work for you and that will give you information you can really use to improve student learning. Examples of assessment method/tools include: Published tests, Locally developed tests, Embedded assignments and course activities, Competence interviews, Portfolios of student work, Collective portfolios, Surveys, Interviews, Focus Groups, Reflective Essays.
Assessment isn’t the same as assigning grades. Grades alone do not give enough information on specific strengths and weaknesses of students. In addition, grading standards might be vague, while assessment information is very specific. How do you know that students are learning the outcomes that have been identified for the course? The assessment method/tool must measure the desired outcomes and the tools rubric must be specific enough to provide evidence regarding identified student learning outcomes. The rubric is an important piece of the assessment.
A rubric lists the specific parts of the assignment – the types of things the instructor is looking for and evaluating to determine the overall grade. The rubric specifically lists acceptable and unacceptable qualities in the assignment. Rubrics can have many levels (exemplary, good, competent, below standards, unacceptable, etc.) and can be written to accommodate any assignment and any qualities you are looking for.
To make things perfectly clear to your students, rubrics should be handed out to your students when you explain the assignment, so that they can focus their energies on things that you have decided are most important for this assignment.
Benefits of using a rubric include:
- Expectations are clear to students, so it helps them focus.
- Rubrics make grading faster. (There’s no need to write the same thing many times – just circle the appropriate statements on the rubric.)
- Since grading is easier, assignments should be returned more quickly, so students will receive prompt feedback that they can then use for improvement.
- Strengths and weaknesses are clearly delineated.
- Completed rubrics can be used evidence of assessment: how did your students do on each aspect of the assignment, (such as those aspects that are identified as course SLOs). You can focus your energies on improving what needs to be improved.
- Examples and instructions on using rubrics are widely available. Explore the following resources for more info. on rubrics:
As you may know, the accrediting commission (ACCJC) has changed its standards, and colleges will need to meet a new set of criteria to keep their accreditation. The new standards heavily emphasize outcomes and assessment at the course level, program level, and institution level. This represents a dramatic shift in focus, and it means that if we as a college can’t demonstrate that we’re practicing assessment, we could lose our accreditation. On the next accreditation self-study report and visit, we will need to show what assessment we have been doing. If we haven’t done anything, we will be in trouble!
* permission was received from the Laney College’s Learning Assessment Committee (3/08, Cheli Fossum, Co-Chair) to use their content on this site.