Program Redesign within Semester Conversion
These guidelines are designed to aid academic programs in considering possibilities for transformative change – at the program level – within the conversion to semesters.
Student learning outcomes (SLO’s) for an academic program: the knowledge, skills, or behaviors that a program’s students should be able to demonstrate upon program completion. Program outcomes represent broad statements that incorporate many areas of inter-related knowledge and skills developed over the duration of the program through a wide range of courses and experiences. They represent the big picture, describe broad aspects of behavior, encompass multiple learning experiences, and are representative of an end stage of performance.
SLO’s for a course, on the other hand, refer to the knowledge, skills, or behaviors that a student should be able to demonstrate upon completion of a specific course.
In the case of SLO’s for both programs and courses, here are two basic questions:
- What do you want students to learn and be able to do by the end of the program/course?
- What can you put in place that allows you to determine if students are doing that or not?
When writing these SLO’s, define them from a student’s perspective and not from an instructor. Also, outcomes should be measurable and described in behavioral and observable terms.
Within the overarching sense that “curriculum redesign drives course redesign,” the CET&L’s “Semester Conversion Discussion Series” has developed some guidelines that may be helpful in clarifying these distinctions. The discussion for March 18, 2009, for instance, led to these questions that we might ask of individual courses:
- What level of mastery should we require of students for successful advancement beyond this course?
- What would a successful student be able to do differently as a result of completing this course?
- What would a successful student know and be able to do two years from now as a result of completing this course?
To get a sense of appropriate student learning outcomes for a whole academic program, we might use Prof. Michael Zender’s concept from DAAP of the student “portrait.” In a CET&L discussion on May 7, 2009, Zender described the questions that his program asked in developing learning outcomes for that program:
- What would a successful graduate of that program look like today?
- What would a successful graduate of that program look like in the future?
- What skills would that graduate need in order to excel in the 21st century?
- What kinds of people would that graduate collaborate or work with?
Answers to such questions, perhaps further developed in conversations with alumni, might help a program to develop a “portrait” of a graduate with the traits deemed necessary or desirable to help that graduate to be successful. Within this same discussion, Marianne Lewis (CoB) emphasized the importance of students gaining experience collaborating across college and disciplinary lines so as to mimic the environment that students will encounter in their careers. Steve Kroeger (CECH) further noted the value of identifying the mandates that might be imposed by external accreditation agencies as a way to define student learning outcomes for a program. And Joyce Malek (A&S) described the benefits of a cross-college disciplinary group such as UC’s Composition Committee as a way to assess student learning in one program relative to expectations in another.