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Program & Course Level Assessment

Components of Assessment | Developing SLO | Characteristics of a Clear Outcome | Using the Results

Outcomes assessment occurs at different levels but all outcome statements should be driven by the institution's mission statement.


Course Level
Specific content and skills learned by students in each course result in the desired Course level outcomes

Program Level
In aggregate, those course level outcomes combined with other program experiences (academic advising, internships and faculty-directed research) result in the desired Program level goals

Institution Level
In aggregate, those program level outcomes combined with General Education outcomes, extra and co-curricular outcomes, information literacy outcomes, and others (diversity, ethical and civic leadership) result in the desired Institution level goals.
Based on Middle States Guide: Student Learning Assessment (MSCHE SLA) pg. 11
*Please note that throughout MSCHE SLA guide, the words "goal" and "outcome" are used interchangeably.



Outcomes at each level are "interconnected, complimentary and reciprocal". Middle States "is concerned that the institution develops a coherent set of goals*, that those goals stem from the institutional mission, and that goals at the subordinate levels contribute to the attainment of goals at the higher levels." pg. 12

According to Middle States, "the desired outcomes at the institutional level provide the outline or framework for connecting goals at the program level into a coherent whole". Similarly, the program outcomes provide a framework for the course outcomes. Figures 1 and 2 from the MSCHE SLA guide provide examples of the relationship between Institutional and Program Outcomes and Program and Course Outcomes.

CCC Assessment Expectations - Memo from VP Academic Affairs & Enrollment Services

Components of Assessment Plan

Outcomes - What should student know or be able to perform? Measures - What methods will be used to measure achievement? Criteria - How will we know the outcomes have been achieved? Results - What were the findings? Use of Results - What changes could be made to improve results?

Sources: Suskie, Linda. Assessing Student Learning and Morante, Edward. Handbook on Outcomes Assessment.

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Developing Student Learning Outcomes

Assessment should answer the following questions:

What do you want students to be able to do when they complete your program or course? What skills, abilities, knowledge or values should the student be able to demonstrate as a result of the program or course?
See Leading Questions for Developing Learning Outcomes (MSCHE SLA, pg. 22)
In what course(s) do you assess the skills you expect the student to learn and how do you measure them (embedded test questions, common course activities or lab exercises scored using an agreed upon rubric...). See examples of Direct and Indirect Measures (MSCHE SLA, pg.29) 

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Characteristics of a Clear Outcome

Learning outcomes should be specific statements that describe the skills, abilities, knowledge or values that students should be able to do or demonstrate as a result of the program or course. Keep the outcomes learner-oriented; assessment is about what the learner can demonstrate or do and not about what learning opportunities the program or course will provide.

Remember keep your outcomes:

Measurable and/or observable - quantitative data points are often easier to collect and analyze but qualitative data are acceptable and have their place in assessment. Often qualitative data can provide insight that is more meaningful than rank scale data. As a matter of fact, Middle States recommends that you use multiple measures/methods to assess student learning outcomes. We just recommend that you not use all qualitative data but include a mix of both.
Manageable - make sure that measuring the outcome is both realistic and feasible; do you have the resources (manpower and cost) to collect the data?
Meaningful - select an outcome that is important to you
Vague outcomes cannot be easily assessed so be specific.
Outcomes should be measurable; cannot measure what occurs in student's mind (e.g. the student understands...); can measure student actions (e.g. the student can define, explain...) Avoid terms such as "appreciate", "know", "understand", "learn" Use action terms such as listed in Bloom's Action Verbs
Samples of Program Outcomes Unclear: To provide students with opportunities to develop their leadership skills Clear: Students will be able to compare and contrast various leadership styles.
Unclear: Students will appreciate the complexity of living in a diverse society. Clear: Student will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the relationships between diversity, inequality, and social injustice in the United States and globally.
Unclear: Student will learn sound time-management skills. Clear: Students will be able to identify and define effective time-management skills.

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Using the Results

Describe your results in enough detail to prove whether you have met, partially met (data inconclusive), or not met your achievement target.
Attach documents to support your data. These can include survey instruments or results, reports, etc.
Analyze the data and think about what has been learned during an assessment cycle
Identify areas that need to be monitored, remediated, or enhanced
After reflecting on the findings, you and your colleagues should determine appropriate action to improve the program/course. This should be documented in TracDat under the Follow-up/Action Plan section.
Examples of Using Program Outcome Results
Examples of Using Course Outcome Results

Summary of Assessment Steps

1. Identify student outcomes and define how you will measure it; can be a direct or indirect measure of the learning outcome. 2. Collect evidence on a semester, annual or bi-annual basis. 3. Disseminate the results and use findings to make improvements to program or course. Repeat the process.

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