Purpose of Student Learning Outcomes

Integrating student learning goals and outcomes at the course and program levels serve the following purposes:

  • Increased student awareness of their own learning
    Explicitly-stated learning goals give students a way to think and talk about what they have learned. They make it easier for students to “know what they know” and give students a language to communicate what they know to others. Such awareness is considered central to learning that lasts.
  • Frameworks for course design and redesign
    Faculty often find that it is much easier to plan a course when they begin with where they hope their students will end. Another place to begin planning or revising a course is where faculty know students will face difficulty in the course. Identifying student learning goals helps faculty structure their courses, identify pedagogical strategies, and design assignments, tests, projects, class discussion, and other course elements to help students meet those goals.

    Course-based learning goals also serve as criteria that faculty can use both to assess students’ progress and to direct course revision, helping faculty to incorporate the skills, methodology, and thinking that the major values into their classes. Finally, course-based learning goals also identify for programs the values and practices of the faculty delivering the program curricula. In so doing, course-based goals inform program learning goals.
  • A method for program planning
    Program learning goals help faculty plan the curriculum, assess coherence and sequencing, and evaluate the learning of majors. In addition, they signal the program’s disciplinary identity and provide a common language that students, faculty, and staff share. This common language can facilitate communication and build bridges among various program services for students, such as advising and instruction.
  • A map for curricular assessment and change
    Use of learning goals helps programs think about curriculum. When learning goals are defined, programs can determine the courses that address each goal. Curricular maps can reveal desired and undesired redundancies, overlaps, and gaps in programs for majors.
  • A method for institutional assessment
    Course-based and program learning goals and their assessment demonstrate how learning goals are translated through the lenses and curricula of the disciplines those units represent. Furthermore, they can show larger units within the institution how the parts relate to the whole.
  • Improved academic advising
    Learning goals for each course are an important first step toward clearly communicating expectations to students, assisting them, and their advisors, in matching courses and majors with student interests and capabilities.
  • Evidence for accreditation
    Accrediting agencies have modified their requirements to include student learning goals and evidence that assessment of student learning relative to those goals is used in curricular improvement.