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Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) Examples

Student Learning Outcome (SLOs)

Sometimes called “goals” and/or objectives, the phrase “student learning outcomes” in this context refers to knowledge, skills, abilities, or attitudes that students should have achieved by the end of the course or a formal educational experience, ones that are both observable and measurable.

Strong SLOs are clear, measurable/observable, and specific in terms of what you want your student to be able to do or understand following the completion of your course or program. The emphasis of student learning outcomes is on what students can do with what they have learned, resulting in a product that can be evaluated.

CET&L has developed an SLO rubric that faculty can use as a self-evaluation tool to assess their rewritten student learning outcomes. The rubric also serves as a guide for department/unit heads and program directors who will be reviewing C-1 submissions.

The list below provides examples of rewritten SLOs (many submitted by UC faculty).

Art History
British Literature (TAG COURSE)
Cell Biology (Graduate Level)
Engineering
Gene Expression and Regulation
Information Literacy (Designed for First Year Students)
Introduction to Cell Biology
Introduction to Stage Lighting
Introductory Geoscience Course
Pharmacy
Psychology
Research Methods


Art History

Before:

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Understand the key elements of visual analysis (in terms of form, color, line, style, etc.)
  • Appreciate the social, political, religious, and philosophical contexts of art objects.

After, Option #1 (Stronger):

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate their ability to conduct visual analysis (in terms of form, color, line, style, etc.)
  • Show their understanding of the social, political, religious, and philosophical contexts of art objects.

After, Option #2 (Even Stronger)

(assuming you could teach the course at an upper-division level and had a lot of instructor agreement on the approach to be used):

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • Organize a final oral presentation about a representative work of art from this period in which they conduct a visual analysis of the work (in terms of form, color, line, style, etc.) and also set the work within its social, political, religious, and philosophical contexts.

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British Literature (TAG COURSE)

Before:

Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of and/or be able to apply:

  • the historical and cultural context which produces British literature;
  • techniques used to analyze a text;
  • accurate critical reading, writing, and discussion of British authors and movements;
  • coverage of a substantial portion of the later period of British literature from the onset of industrialism to the present.

After:

Students will work with a representative literary text from this period and:

  • list and explain at least two distinct historical and/or cultural developments that might be relevant to understanding the text.
  • evaluate how specific aspects of the text are enhanced through our knowledge of those non-literary developments.

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Cell Biology (Graduate Level)

Before:

  • Know basic facts about the composition and function of membranes, organelles, and the cytoskeleton
  • Know how cells communicate with one another
  • Know how to localize proteins and organelles in cells statically and dynamically.

After:

  • Identify the constituents of specific cell membranes and explain how they create cellular compartments with distinct functions
  • Propose an experimental strategy for distinguishing among the different possible mechanisms for cell-cell adhesion
  • Select an appropriate method for analyzing protein-protein interactions in a given cellular context, explain why this method is best-suited for this application, and interpret the results of your analysis.

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Engineering

Before:

  • Students completing the undergraduate program in Hypothetical Engineering will have knowledge of engineering principles.

[This is a weak statement because it does not specify which engineering principles a graduate from the program should know. Also, it does not define what is meant by “have knowledge”. Are they supposed to be able to simply define the principles, or be able to apply the principles, etc?]

After, Option #1 (Stronger):

  • Graduates will be competent in the principles of engineering design, formulating requirements and constraints, following an open-ended decision process involving tradeoffs, and completing a design addressing an aerospace engineering need.

[This statement is better because it lists the specific areas in hypothetical engineering that a student must be competent in. However, it is still vague, as the level of competency is not stated. Are they expected to understand these concepts or apply them?]

After, Option #2 (Even Stronger):

  • Graduates will be able to apply and demonstrate the principles of engineering design, formulating requirements and constraints, following an open-ended decision process involving tradeoffs, and completing a design addressing an aerospace engineering need.

(Example taken from Southern Polytechnic State University.)

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Gene Expression and Regulation

Before:

  • List and explain the components of gene expression apparatus.
  • Compare and contrast the mechanisms of gene expression in three domains of life.
  • Describe and evaluate how organisms adapt to new environment through changes in gene expression.

After:

  • List and explain the components of gene expression machinery in prokaryotes and eukaryotes.
  • Compare and contrast the mechanisms of gene expression in both systems and relate it to the so called third domain of life i.e. archaea.
  • Describe and evaluate the efficiency of adaptation to new environment through changes in gene expression in a given organism.

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Information Literacy (Designed for First Year Students)

Before:

  • Evaluate information based on a limited number of relevant criteria, for example: currency, accuracy, authority.
  • Summarize and integrate information from a few sources to support a thesis or research question.

After:

  • Evaluate information sources based on at least three (3) of the following criteria: currency, accuracy, authorship, potential bias, relationship to the discipline, AND then select the most appropriate source for the assignment.
  • Summarize and analyze information from at least three (3) sources, and then use this information to formulate an argument or to answer a research question.

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Introduction to Cell Biology

Before:

At the end of the class students will be able to:

  • Distinguish between the different types of cells (bacteria, plant, and animal)
  • Explain cellular metabolism
  • Hypothesize the outcomes of genetic mutations
  • Understand the stages of the cell cycle

After:

  • List and describe the main function of the components of the cell.
  • Distinguish between different types of cellular metabolism (how cells generate energy) as they relate to oxygen.
  • Diagram the progression of genetic information from DNA to protein and explain the effect of DNA mutations on proteins.
  • Distinguish between the different stages of cell growth.

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Introduction to Stage Lighting

Before:

Upon completion of this course students will be able to:

  • Recognize the elements of design and critique their use in theatrical productions as well as real world applications.
  • Identify the types of lighting instruments and their component parts and choose appropriate instruments for a group project.
  • Hang and focus instruments in class and during crew assignments.
  • Be familiar with safety procedures in the theatre and expected to abide by them.
  • Understand the parts of the production team and evaluate their own role in the production.
  • Model the appropriate attitudes and professionalism of a theatre practitioner. They will be evaluated on their punctuality, preparedness, positive attitude, and ability to work well with peers and superiors, and work ethic.
  • Read a lighting plot and hook up and create a small light plot.

After:

Upon completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Critique the use of the functions and qualities of light in theatrical productions and real world applications.
  • Identify the members of the production team and their own role in that team.
  • Exemplify the skills and attitude necessary to be effective and productive members of a stage lighting crew.

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Introductory Geoscience Course

Before:

  • Students will understand plate tectonics.
  • Students will appreciate the complexity of earth systems.

After:

  • Students will interpret unfamiliar tectonic settings based on information on physiography, seismicity, and volcanic activity.
  • Students will demonstrate the skills necessary to evaluate an unfamiliar area of geologic hazards.
  • Students will analyze historical and geologic records in an identified area and predict the likelihood of future natural disaster events.

(This example is taken from Barbara Tewksbury’s Designing Effective and Innovative Courses Tutorial.)

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Pharmacy

Before:

  • For a patient, explain how to use their medication including:  drug name, intended use, side effects, and missed dose action.
  • Judge health care websites using criteria that determine site quality.
  • Identify patient-specific information needed to detect and resolve medication-related problems.

After:

  • Explain to a patient how to use the prescribed medication including:  drug name, intended use, side effects, and missed dose action in a role-play and in writing.
  • Judge health care website using site quality and reliability criteria and present that evaluation in writing.
  • In a case study, identify patient-specific medical history needed to detect medication-related problems recommend solutions.

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Psychology

Before:

  • Students should know the historically important systems of psychology.

[This is poor because it says neither that systems nor what information about each system students should know. Are they supposed to know everything about them or just names?  Should students be able to recognize the names, recite the central ideas, or criticize the assumptions?]

After:

  • Students should be able to recognize and articulate the foundational assumptions, central ideas, and dominant criticisms of the psychoanalytic, Gestalt, behaviorist. Humanistic and cognitive approaches to psychology.

[This provides even beginning students an understandable and very specific target. It provides faculty with a reasonable standard against which they can compare actual student performance.]

(Example taken from Southern Polytechnic State University.)

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Research Methods

Before:

  • Students should be able to independently design and carry out research.

[The problem with this is that the statement does not specify the type or quality of research to be done.]

After, Option #1 (Stronger):

  • Students should be able to independently design and carry out experimental and correlational research.

[This specifies the type of research, but not the quality students must achieve. If a student independently does any research that is experimental or correlational, it would be viewed as acceptable.]

After, Option #2 (Even Stronger): 

  • Students should be able to independently design and carry out experimental and correlational research that yields valid results.

[Here the standard for students to aim for is clear and specific enough to help faculty agree about what students are expected to do. Therefore, they should be able to agree reasonably well about whether students have or have not achieved the objective. Even introductory students can understand the sentence, even if they do not know exactly what experimental and correlational research methods are.]

(Example from Southern Polytechnic State University.) 

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