The time you invest developing your program learning outcomes will save
time later in the assessment process, because it will help you identify useful
and meaningful assessment questions, and design effective measures of
assessment. If you find that you are
spending a large amount of time or becoming frustrated, it is time to stop and
ask for help. If that
happens, please contact us, and let us help you simplify things.
To access the worksheet that corresponds to the steps below, please
Step 1. Identify the goals of your degree program:
For what are you preparing your students?
Begin by examining your program’s mission statement, and the
mission of your College and NAU. What
are the goals of your degree program? For what are you preparing students to
accomplish upon graduating from the University?
(e.g., Continuing to graduate school?
Preparation for a specific career or profession? Being a productive
Step 2. Expansion: Creating an exhaustive (or nearly
exhaustive) list of possibilities:
The process we recommend in developing new program learning
outcomes is to identify as many of the knowledge areas, skills, values,
attitudes/ dispositions possible for your program. Please keep in mind that different
disciplines identify “knowledge,” “skills,” “values,” and “dispositions” differently. It is not necessary to categorize each of
these in the same manner as the examples below.
The important point is to identify those essential defining areas that,
together, create an ideal student in your degree program.
Some examples of knowledge areas, skills, ways of knowing,
values, attitudes and dispositions include:
- Knowledge Areas: Theories and their
related content, Broad content knowledge all members of a discipline should
master, Sub-sets of content knowledge that is unique to emphases or
specializations within your discipline, etc.
- Skills: Analysis, Application of theory/
knowledge, Creativity, Design, Leadership, Problem solving, Team participation,
Writing, Oral presentations, Technical skills, Clinical skills, etc.
- Ways of knowing: Scientific method, Quantitative
- Values: Civic knowledge and engagement
(local and global), Intercultural knowledge and competence engaging across
diverse populations, Ethical reasoning, Lifelong learning, etc.
- Attitudes/ Dispositions: Empathy and
caring for patients; Listening; etc.
Think through the courses of your program. Write down an exhaustive list of ideas for
each of the areas above, as they relate to your degree program and field of
If your program has existed for a fair amount of time, but
you have never developed Program Learning Outcomes, another approach that may
be useful is to gather in one document all of the course learning outcomes from
your core courses, as well as your electives.
Review your list and consider the following question in
creating your outcomes: What will an “ideal” student graduating from your
program know and be able to do? Include
these if they are not on the list. Focus
on what the “ideal” student graduating from your program should be able to
know, do, and value, as well as the attitudes and dispositions that would
assist students in achieving the highest level of success in your field.
Again, review your list, and now consider this question:
What are the defining characteristics students must master to obtain a degree
in YOUR program? Include these if they
are not on the list. What are the unique opportunities and approaches which you
hope students will experience, and how will that manifest itself in students’
Step 3. Contraction: Revising the many possibilities
into a set of clear outcomes.
Now, we’re going to take the results of Step 2, and reduce
them to a set of 7 to 11 program learning outcomes. Begin by organize the topics and outcomes on your
lists into related batches. (Identify
areas of content knowledge that are closely related, and place them
together. Do the same with the other
categories (skills, values, etc.).) If
you haven’t already, begin to connect these across categories (knowledge to
skills, values to attitudes, etc.). For
example, maybe at the program level “writing comprehension” occurs through
completing a scientific investigation, or other analysis. Particularly focus on identify connections
between outcomes that are unobservable (such as understanding a concept,
listening to a patient, etc.) to outcomes that are observable (completing Mock
Board Exams, writing projects, presentations, etc.).
Still have too many outcomes? Next, rank the overall importance of each
(Essential, Very Important, Important, Somewhat Important). From this data and follow-up conversations,
identify a final selection of characteristics that faculty believe most suit
the degree program as it is uniquely taught by the faculty members at NAU.
Use the following questions to identify whether your outcome
accomplishes the University Assessment Committee criteria for a distinguished Program Learning Outcome:
- How does it support your program’s mission?
- What learning goals does it accomplish for your
- How is it directly related to your discipline or
field of study?
- Is it demonstrable? How will you know it when you see it?
~Adapted from Creating
Learning Outcomes from www.Stanford.Edu and ASU’s Assessment Handbook