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Overview of Assessment Outcomes


"Student Learning Outcomes [are the] overarching specific observable characteristics developed by local faculty that allow them to determine or demonstrate evidence that learning has occurred as a result of a specific course, program, activity or process" (Academic Senate for California Community Colleges).

What levels of SLOs are there?

There are three levels of outcomes related to SLOs:

Course Outcomes: Course Outcomes express higher level thinking skills that integrate the content and activities. These are measurable or observable and demonstrate an overarching understanding and application of a subject beyond the specific course content. Outcomes can be measured or observed as a behavior, skill, or discrete usable knowledge and are supported by the content of a course. A typical course may have one to two course outcomes.

Program/Pathway Outcomes: Program/Pathway Outcomes represent skills and concepts students will develop as a result of completing a program (e.g., earning a degree or certificate).  There are three program pathways: Foundational Skills, General Education/Transfer, and Career-Technical Education.

Service Area Outcomes: A Service Area Outcome describes the primary service(s) provided by an area and how that service assists or aids the students in achieving their learning goals. In cases where the personnel in the area have direct contact with students, the service outcome describes how students directly benefit. In the case where personnel have no contact or only indirect contact with students, the service outcome may describe how what is done assists the faculty and staff in their contact with students.

For example, the Maintenance and Operations Department may enable the faculty and staff to serve students by making sure that classrooms and offices are kept in good condition. Services for Students with Disabilities may assist students in achieving their learning outcomes by providing any needed accommodations. Academic Affairs may enhance student success by making sure that information is accurate and available in a timely manner.

How is a course outcome different from a course objective?

A course objective addresses the skills, tools, or content that enable a student to engage in a particular subject. They are tied directly to specific course content. A typical course will have five to seven course objectives and many more lesson objectives.

A course outcome refers to an overarching understanding and application that goes beyond specific course content. It refers to what students take away from the course that they can use in other courses or in life. A typical course will have only one or two outcomes.

A good way to understand the difference is to think back to one of your favorite undergraduate classes (not in your major). Could you pass the final exam of that class today? Probably not—because you couldn't meet the course objectives. Did you get something out of that class that you used in other classes or that you still use today? If yes, then that is the outcome.

How is grading different from SLO assessment?

The basic difference between grading and SLO assessment is that they have two distinctly different audiences and purposes:

Grading measures an individual student's mastery of course concepts, assignments, activities and exams using instructor-generated grading rubrics and criteria. This type of assessment is for students, to give them an objective measure of how they have done in a particular class, and we give each student a grade for assignments, exams and other class activities. To determine a grade, faculty use their own faculty-generated grading rubrics and criteria, and the final grade for each student is reported every semester through the PeopleSoft Student Information System (SIS).

SLO assessment measures the collective mastery of Course SLOs using department-generated rubrics and criteria to assess a single assignment, activity or exam across multiple course sections. This type of assessment is for faculty and the institution in that it provides feedback about how well our instruction enables students to achieve communication, critical thinking and other higher level skills that we have identified as the main outcomes for students to take away from our instruction. These outcomes are in addition to course goals and are not directly tied to course goals or grades. SLO assessment is not meant to predict future behavior, or to assess faculty performance or competency. Its main purpose is to inform faculty, administrators and accreditation organizations about how we are contributing to our students as learners. 

For the SLO assessment process, faculty are required to use a department-generated rubric as the basis for assessing classes that are scheduled for assessment according to a department's DAP (Discipline/Department Assessment Plan). Typically, SLO assessments have to be reported every three years, and starting fall semester 2015, those reports were entered into eLumen, an assessment management system that will streamline our SLO assessment process.  Department chairs notify faculty about when and which courses have to be assessed in any particular semester.