Learning outcomes say what students should be able to do upon completion of the major. While students are expected to grow in many ways and to develop their own interests and talents, every department or program should define a few key outcomes that all students in the major are expected to accomplish and that the department will assess to determine the effectiveness of its academic program.
Learning outcomes are generally written in the form:
Students should be able to <action verb> <object>.
Use just one action verb and one object to make the outcome assessable. State the outcome in language a student is likely to understand.
A student who completes the major in X should be able to: <list items such as the following>
Produce sound philosophical discourse.
Analyze a literary text.
Translate prose from Latin into English.
Critique a mathematical argument.
Design an experiment to test a hypothesis.
Describe monuments of art in historical context.
Design a performance environment for the production of a play.
Use tools of economic theory to analyze an economic problem.
A useful strategy is to define one or more high-level outcomes that provide overarching goals for the major and then to define specific components that can be directly assessed using student work in courses and capstones. Each component can have its own rubric to rate the quality of the work with respect to one or more outcomes.
A student who completes the major in Economics should be able to develop an economic analysis. Specifically, the student should be able to:
Formulate a problem for economic analysis;
Find relevant literature that bears on the problem;
Interpret quantitative evidence and regression analyses;
Quality standards for work should spelled out for students and faculty. A useful way to do this is to incorporate the standards into rubrics keyed to the desired outcomes (see "How to Assess" below).
- Define learning outcomes for every major offered by the department or program. There is likely to be overlap, but there should also be differences that distinguish the majors.
- Focus on a few key outcomes that are expected of all students and that will be assessed to determine the effectiveness of the program. Students should go beyond these outcomes in individual ways.
- State outcomes or components with just one action verb and one object to make them assessable.
- State outcomes plainly so that students, faculty, and others can understand what they mean and agree when they have been achieved.
- Develop quality standards for evaluating student work with respect to the outcomes. Incorporate these into rubrics to rate work samples from courses or capstones.