CCC On Creating General Education Core Learning Outcomes

At the broad program level, learning outcomes:

  • Introduce to students what will be learned by way of a particular requirement.
  • Unify faculty understanding of what should be delivered for a particular requirement.
  • Clarify program vision and expectation for the purpose of assessment.

At the degree program and/or course level, learning outcomes articulate what students will learn and how they will learn it. That is, they introduce the specific goals of the course and the actions students will take to demonstrate learning.

General Education program outcomes broadly capture what any student should learn in their experience with a given element.
Here, assessment is broad. Many courses will count and many types of assignments will show learning.Non-expert faculty can participate in evaluating student artifacts.

Degree program or course outcomes articulate what and how​ students will learn in particular classes.
Here, assessment is specific. The instructor(s) in the program will dictate how students will/should demonstrate learning. Instructors in the program will evaluate student work.

Importantly, if an assignment a given course meets the department’s/instructor’s specific understanding of how to meet the outcome, it should also meet requirements for general education.

The CCC is designing learning outcomes for general education core elements with some things in mind:

  1. These outcomes constitute the foundational skills, practices, and ways of knowing that we want all students to have access to when they come to PLU. They should not be a complete accounting of everything that happens in a class, element, or program.
  2. Outcomes should not be too content-focused, rather they should describe what students will be able to do to demonstrate that they can use the content in particular ways.
  3. At least one assignment in every course will need to provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate what they’ve learned in relation to the course elements. This will be one standard for getting a course to count for a particular element.
  4. Assessment rubrics with framing language will need to be written for each element to clarify how we want to evaluate the specifics of student learning. The rubric will detail how we interpret the range of abilities demonstrated in/by a given artifact.
  5. Outcomes are living texts. They can/should be revised based on ongoing assessment and review.

A test for evaluating core learning outcomes: Count the action words.

When doing assessment we evaluate based on the action words. These are the terms that account for what we want to see students ​doing​ in their work (e.g., analyze, explain, interpret and so on). Typically one term will be most important. Subsequent action words can clarify how the top-level action will be delivered, but they can also limit the circumstances in which a student may show learning. Be sure that every course that will deliver the element can also deliver the described actions in a single assignment.

And a bonus question: Imagine a non-expert in your field applying the outcome (via a rubric) to an artifact from one of your courses. With some framing/coaching will they be able to consistently understand all of the possible ways students might deliver the action described in the outcome?

Questions or comments?
Please contact the Office of the Provost (253)535-7126 or provost@plu.edu
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