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Identify Program Learning Outcomes

What are student learning outcomes?

Student learning outcomes are goals that describe how a student will be different because of a learning experience. More specifically, learning outcomes are the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience (Suskie, 2009).

Why create program-level student learning outcomes?

What makes for good program-level student learning outcomes?

In order to have any of the benefits above, program-level student learning outcomes must:

  • Describe what students should know and be able to do upon completion of the departmental requirements.
  • Specify an action that faculty can both observe and measure.
  • Be limited to about five per department or program.
  • Be aligned with both course-level and institution-level learning outcomes.

How do I write good program-level student learning outcomes?

Unlike the process for creating course-level student learning outcomes, the process for creating program-level student learning outcomes is by necessity collaborative. Ideally, all teaching faculty and support staff should be involved in the creative process, with optional facilitation by an assessment professional. This encourages ownership by all those involved in helping students achieve department/program-level outcomes.

Ideas for program-level student learning outcomes can come from a review of one or many sources:

  • Course-level student learning outcomes.
  • Suggested outcomes provided by professional organizations.
  • Complimentary departments/programs within the same institution or departments/programs in the same discipline at other institutions.

Example program-level student learning outcomes from University of Connecticut's Assessment Office:

  • Anthropology: Students will be able to explain and appropriately apply evoultionary theory to human and nonhuman primate biological phenomena; this should include ability to summarize the basic time-line and processes of general primate and specific hominid biological evolution.
  • Bioengineering: Students will be able to apply advanced mathematics (including differential equations and statistics), science, and engineering to solve the problems at the interface of engineering and biology.
  • English: Students will be able to evaluate how a text supports or defies the literary conventions of its genre.
  • Natural Resources: Students will broaden their social perspectives through exposure to diverse culture and thinking in course works, service projects, and departmental or college seminars.

Want more examples of good program-level student learning outcomes? Visit the Sample Tools page.

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