Academic Degree Programs & Certificates

Program and Student Learning Outcomes

Each academic program identifies both program and student learning outcomes that clarify and reinforce its mission. These outcomes provide the framework by which faculty make informed, evidence-based changes to the curriculum, program, or student learning; engage faculty in collective ownership of the curriculum; inform students of what they are expected to achieve; and describe the program to stakeholders (interested students, disciplinary and institutional accrediting agencies, employers, etc.). 

  • Programs should identify at least one student learning outcome for each of the four university goals - Communication Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, Disciplinary Expertise, and Research/Creative Engagement.
  • Programs should identify at least one program outcome for the university goal of Program Quality.
  • Programs with discipline-specific accreditation requirements may have more outcomes.
  • All outcomes should be measured at least twice in a five-year period.

Program Outcomes

The University’s goal is that all degree programs will achieve excellence and recognition for high-quality teaching and learning, including the achievement of a satisfactory external review and/or accreditation. In relation to this Program Quality goal, each program should identify at least one measurable outcome. In addition, programs should identify at least one more measurable program outcome each year that reflects the services provided or particular student achievement area of interest (retention rates, graduation rates, placement rates, etc.).

For examples of program outcomes and further assistance on writing program outcomes, go to assessment resources.

Student Learning Outcomes

The University has adopted four broad goals for improving student learning - Communication Skills, Critical Thinking Skills, Disciplinary Expertise, and Research/Creative Engagement. Students completing each degree program

  • Will exhibit effective communication skills (written, oral, interpersonal) appropriate for professionals in this field of study.
  • Will effectively use quantitative and qualitative analytical problem-solving skills appropriate for professionals in this field of study.
  • Will demonstrate a level of discipline-specific expertise (knowledge, skills, professionalism) appropriate for professionals in this field of study.
  • Will demonstrate the ability to engage productively in the review and conduct of disciplinary research appropriate for professionals in this field of study.

Programs should identify at least one measurable student learning outcome for each of these four broad learning goals each year. All outcomes should be tied to a particular course in the program's curriculum map, which is updated each year.

For examples of student learning outcomes and further assistance on writing student learning outcomes, go to assessment resources.

Measurement of Outcomes

Measures for each outcome should be at the appropriate cognitive level and should provide reasonably accurate (reliable and valid) information useful for showing where improvements can be made.

Ideally, outcomes should be measured directly: examining student artifacts with rubrics, using standardized tests, or external evaluations of projects, performances, or internships. It is required that at least one outcome for each of the four student learning goals have a direct measure. Grades are not appropriate direct measures.

In addition, outcomes may be measured indirectly: exit surveys, focus groups, self-assessments, employer surveys.

Measures should be specific and clearly titled. For instance, "Senior Capstone Project" would be clear and specific, but "Project" would not.

All evidence/measures used to assess outcomes should be added into Taskstream. For instance, if an outcome is assessed with a student artifact using a rubric, the actual assignment and rubric used should be added as supporting documents.

Reflection and Development of Action Plans

Information collected through the process should suggest potential changes to curriculum, policy or program requirements, assessment plan or methods, pedagogical practices, or technology use. These plans should be focused on specific actions to be taken over the next year.

Annual Assessment Reporting

The assessment process in each academic program is reflected in a (1) assessment results report and a (2) assessment plan report.

Assessment Results Report

This report is submitted in June of each year and describes the results of the assessment process that year (August – June) and the unit’s reflections on the results and what they mean.

  • For the outcomes that were assessed during the past year: summarize the findings, discuss the findings by sharing the effectiveness of your assessment (curricular, policy/procedures, the assessment process itself), and state the status of the outcome (target was met, unmet, or exceeded). Provide supporting information: copy of the measure, related data, or reports. From these reflections come the actions for the next year noted in the Assessment Plan submitted in August.
  • For the results of the action plan, what is the current status? What are the results of the action(s) that were proposed for this year? What changes will you make in your program as a result of this action(s)?

Assessment Plan Report

This report is submitted in August of each year and provides the plan of action that the unit will take based on the results of last year’s assessment work. This report includes the following three elements:

A:  What changes, if any, as a result of last year’s process, should be made in your mission, purpose/core function, goals/outcomes, or student learning outcomes?

B:  The action plan for the upcoming year

  • Related outcome – which outcome/results prompted this initiative?
  • Action item title – a short name for this action
  • What is the purpose of this action?
  • What specific steps are planned for the year (implementation schedule, those involved, etc.)
  • What are the expected results?
  • How will you know if this action has been a success?

C:  List which of your stated outcomes you will measure this year

  • What outcomes will you measure for this year?
  • What evidence/measure(s) will you use to assess the outcome? Use clear and specific titles.
  • Is it a direct or indirect measure?
  • Describe the process for how you will measure each of the outcomes (the instrument used, when/where will it be used, and with who)
  • What is the performance target for this outcome? Use a target that is realistically achievable, but pushes for continuous growth and improvement.
  • What is the implementation schedule?
  • Who is responsible for conducting the assessment?

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