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Academic Assessment Cycle - Goal Setting - Student Learning Outcomes - How To


Student Learning Outcomes are an integral part of building a program curriculum and accurately assessing that curriculum to ensure continuous improvement. The students' ability to accomplish Student Learning Outcomes is what is measured during the assessment process. 


First Step: Student Learning Outcomes require faculty and program administrators to ask themselves the question: What do we want our students to be able to do upon successful completion of our program?

Once that question is answered, even in general terms, the next step is to focus on the phrasing of the outcome.  The specific words and phrasing of a Student Learning Outcome are key.

Step Two: Once it is broadly decided what students need to be able to do to successfully complete the program the department must describe this in discrete and measurable terms. To be discrete in a Student Learning Outcome means that only one aspect of student learning is being measured at a time, for example "students will be able to communicate effectively" rather than "students will be able to communicate effectively, send emails, make phone calls, and set calendars." Similarly, to be measurable means that the target of the Student Learning Outcome is something that can be measured, for example, measuring students ability to communicate effectively can be done through a rubric, it is not possible, however to measure how students feel about their ability to communicate. 

You should begin the phrase with “Students will be able to…

Step Three: The program will need to pick the verb that describes the level of mastery you expect students to achieve by the time they complete the program. Bloom’s Taxonomy provides various synonyms in a hierarchy that can help the program describe the degree to which it is expected students will achieve. 



Step Four: Once it has been decided on what students should be able to do and the degree to which they should accomplish it in discrete and measurable terms a sentence combining these items should be created. 

Step Five: These should then be combined in a set of three to six statements that together tell the story of what students learn and accomplish while in the program.

Good Student Learning Outcomes Poor Student Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to... design a research project appropriate for the discipline.  Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to... think about a research project that covers several methods, adn write a report about the research project, and communicate the research project to others outside their field.  
Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to...juxtapose a the relationship between two seminal texts of the discipline. Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to... discuss the works of author a, author b, and author c in relation to core class 101 in regard to historical, cultural, societal and other contexts, and communicate this through a PowerPoint, talk, and essay. 

Works Cited and Bloom's Taxonomy