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Intro to SLOs

Why are we writing and discussing Student Learning Outcomes?


What is the point?  Why are we making faculty do extra work?  Why can’t we just lea e them alone to teach?  Is this just another fad?  Aren’t most instructors already using outcomes?


The answer is two-fold.


Yes, accreditation is the driving influence.  The new standards state that “the institution identifies student learning outcomes for courses, programs, certificates, and degrees; assesses student achievement of those outcomes; and uses assessment results to make improvements.”  We need to show the accrediting team that we are moving in this direction.  They are not asking that we completely achieve the result, but only that we are showing improvement.  Why does accreditation care?


The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) said in its May 2002 Chronicle that “information about student learning outcomes is important to accrediting organizations because the expectation that accreditors will provide this information is growing among important constituents, including those who recognize these organizations?”  Information about student learning outcomes is increasingly important to government, students, and the public because these constituents increasingly tie judgments about the quality of an institution or program to evidence of student academic achievement.  People want to see evidence. 


Student learning outcomes can improve the success of SCC.

The move to student leaning outcomes forces us as instructors to look beyond content coverage and focus on what exactly we want our students to achieve.  In order to be able to explicitly state outcomes, we will have to increase communication between members of the campus community.  Students will be able to see what is expected of them in each class and program.  There will be more consistency between different instructors.  Assessment becomes more straightforward because we have clearly stated what we want tour students to be able to achieve and so we know what we need to “test” or assess for.


Link to the ACCJC (the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges)

California Master Plan for Education


Excerpts below taken from an address given by Dr. Robert Gabriner, past President of the Research and Planning Group of the California Community Colleges:

"Running in tandem with the accountability movement is the call for standardization, an effort to make simple what has always been a complex phenomena-the assessment of what students learned.  Standardization is closely associated with high stakes testing and performance-based funding.  Higher education institutions throughout this country face the possibility of losing their autonomy and their distinctive identity in the wake of this clamor for standardization.

Reflecting the concern over the policy drift toward accountability, standardization and centralized control, the seven regional accrediting associations are pursuing a collective strategy aimed at preserving the integrity and diversity of higher education institutions and establishing an approach to accountability that enables each institution to identify and support its own core values.

Some of us view the new standards with great deal of alarm fearing that they will encroach upon academic freedoms of the faculty.  I don't agree.  This is not about faculty's right to express their views without fear of institutional reprisal.  This is about a professional, as well as a legal commitment, that we have to each student who reads our college catalog, our mission and values statement, and enrolls in our institution.  It is about aligning our institution's commitment to excellence with our collective and individual endeavors to not only know our subject matter, but also to ensure that our students learn it.

I believe that our colleges have the extraordinary talent and skills to respond to the new accreditation standards with great depth of creativity and energy.  I also think that the colleges will have to allocate or reallocate some resources to enable faculty to address learning assessment and to make the qualitative improvements in our institutions. Given the commitment of the faculty and the appropriate support from our institutions, the community colleges have a great opportunity to advance our mission to the people of our state.”



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