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Office of Assessment for Curricular Effectiveness Division of Academic Engagement and Student Achievement

Student Learning Outcomes

Student learning outcomes (SLOs) identify core skills and knowledge that students are expected to demonstrate upon successful completion of a learning experience (e.g., course, program, degree).

  • Course-level SLOs are relatively narrow in scope, learning outcomes which students are expected to achieve as they complete a course.
  • Program-level SLOs are broader in scope, learning outcomes which students are expected to achieve as they complete a program (e.g., core courses and electives for the major).
  • Institutional-level SLOs (i.e. WSU’s Seven Learning Goals of Undergraduate Education and example learning outcomes) are very broad in scope. Students are expected to achieve these learning outcomes as they complete a bachelor’s degree (e.g., UCORE general education + the major).

It is worth noting that the terms learning outcomes, learning competencies, learning objectives, etc. are sometimes used interchangeably or with distinctions specified by a professional association. The term learning outcomes is commonly used at WSU and by ACE.

While faculty provide students with SLOs at multiple levels, this webpage and its resources are focused on program-level SLOs. For more information about course-level SLOs, which are required on course syllabi at WSU, see Required Syllabus Elements. For more information about WSU’s Seven Learning Goals of Undergraduate Education see the WSU Catalog and the UCORE Assessment website.

Value of Program-level SLOs

An effective degree program or major is more than a collection of courses. Program-level SLOs should guide an intentional curriculum designed to foster student achievement of those SLOs. In this context, program-level SLOs serve several important purposes and audiences, as they can:

  • Make clear what students should expect from their educational experience
  • Help students learn more effectively, contributing to educational equity
  • Help faculty plan a coherent undergraduate educational experience in the degree program and design courses and curricula to systematically advance a program’s SLOs
  • Allow faculty to assess student learning and gauge the effectiveness of a curriculum, informing adjustments to courses, curriculum, and instruction
  • Communicate the quality of the degree program to prospective students, employers, and the public
  • Support university accreditation, and specialized professional accreditation where applicable

Program-level SLOs at WSU

WSU undergraduate degree programs are responsible for developing and regularly updating program-level SLOs that capture what faculty most want students to learn through their intended curriculum. As a good practice, faculty apply their expertise to determine program-level SLOs that are specific and critical to the major and discipline.

To help make program-level SLOs available to students, faculty, staff, and the public, all program-level SLOs are published in the WSU Catalog in accordance with WSU’s EPPM and NWCCU accreditation standards (see Program Assessment at WSU and WSU Accreditation and Program Assessment for more information). Some programs also provide program-level SLOs in student handbooks and/or on department websites, and proactively share them with students and faculty.

In general, through the achievement of program-level SLOs, students demonstrate specialized knowledge and skills in the discipline, as well as disciplinary achievement of some of WSU’s Seven Learning Goals of Undergraduate Education (as appropriate to the disciplinary focus), through depth of study within the chosen academic field. WSU’s Seven Learning Goals are expressed broadly so as to frame study in the major as well as general education.

ACE Services for Program-level SLOs

We’re here to help — contact us for more information or to request our services

  • One-on-one or group consultations
  • Interactive workshops

Spotlights Related to Program-level SLOs

Highlighting program assessment in action

Program-level SLOs Toolkit

The resources below are intended to help departments and programs as they develop or update their program-level SLOs. ACE is available to collaborate with undergraduate degree programs to develop or update program-level SLOs; contact us for additional information.

Sort by Type, Author, or Title to find what you need.

TypeAuthorTitleDescription
Quick GuideACE - WSUStudent Learning Outcomes: Good PracticesPDF resource with good practices for developing and updating program-level student learning outcomes
ExamplesVarious WSU ProgramsWSU Examples of Program-level Student Learning OutcomesWebpage featuring a selected sample of program-level student learning outcomes from WSU programs in various disciplines

Additional Resources and Scholarship

Articles

Brooks, S., et al. (2014). Learning about Learning Outcomes: The Student Perspective. Teaching in Higher Education. 19 (6).

Hutchings, P. (2016). Aligning Educational Outcomes and Practices (Occasional Paper #26). Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA).

Books

Note: Please contact ACE to borrow a book.

Suskie, L. (2018). Chapter 4: Learning goals: Articulating what you most want students to learn. In Assessing Student Learning: A Common Sense Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Other

Suskie, L. Blog posts categorized ‘Learning Goals’, A Common Sense Approach to Assessment in Higher Education Blog. Available at: https://www.lindasuskie.com/apps/blog