Student Affairs professionals aim to enhance student learning through the programs, services, and experiences they provide. In order to measure the degree to which these efforts impact students, attention must be placed on assessing student learning through the measurement of student learning outcomes.

Student Affairs demonstrates its commitment to student learning by making the development and measurement of student learning and programmatic outcomes a priority for FY 2014. Throughout FY 2013, student affairs departments engaged in student learning outcomes workshop and trainings led by the Assessment Team, as well as by Dr. Maggie Culp - a nationally recognized educator, author, and consultant – and began drafting outcome statements.

Under the new leadership of Whitney Brown (Coordinator of Student Affairs Research, Assessment & Staff Development), divisions engaged in Student Learning Outcomes Workshops in which departments finalized at least 2 primary student learning outcomes for the 2013-2014 academic year and developed assessment plans for measuring each. Student Affairs aims to work together to measure these learning outcomes throughout the academic year resulting in a May 2014 compilation of approximately 40 specific and measured student learning outcomes that illustrate the value of Student Affairs programs and services.

As of January 2014, seventeen departments/programs have established a total of 25 student learning outcomes. A full listing of those learning outcomes and their respective assessment activities can be found here.

Why Is Assessing Student Learning Outcomes Important?

Outcomes assessment is the most valid way of demonstrating the effectiveness of services, programs, and facilities, especially defending and promoting higher education, and also in meeting accreditation standards. It is also the most difficult, complex and misunderstood of all of the assessment methodologies (Upcraft & Schuh, 2001).

What Are Student Learning Outcomes?

Learning outcomes or learning goals are goals that describe how a student will be different because of a learning experience. More specifically, learning outcomes are the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of mind that students take with them from a learning experience (Suskie, 2009).

Furthermore, learning outcomes are statements indicating what a participant (e.g. students) will know, think, or be able to do as a result of an event, activity, program etc. They need to be specific and measurable.

Effective Learning Outcomes

  • Are student-centered
  • Focus on learning resulting from an activity rather than the activity itself
  • Reflect the institution's mission and the values it represents
  • Align at the course/program, academic program/department, divisional, and institutional levels         
Adapted from StudentVoice Webinar, Writing Effective Learning Outcomes, Spring 2011. Originally cited from Huba & Freed (2000).

Effective learning outcomes should align with the departmental, division, and university objectives, goals, and mission. They should always connect back to the big picture.

The ABCs of a Learning Outcome

  • Audience (Who) - Who does the outcome pertain to?
  • Behavior* (What) - What do you expect the audience to know/be able to do?
  • Condition (How) - Under what conditions or circumstances will the learning occur?
  • Degree (How much) - How much will be accomplished? How well will the behavior need to be performed, and to what level or degree?

*Consider using Bloom's Taxonomy, which outlines learning objectives for students. The further up you go, the more complex the learning (see graphic below).

Bloom's-Taxonomy

Sample Learning Ouctomes
  • After participating in the student club officer leadership training, club officers will be able to describe the five practices of Kouzes and Posner's leadership model
  • After attending a financial aid session, students will be able to accurately fill out the FAFSA form
  • Students attending the smoking cessation program will be able to identify the five main effects of smoking on one’s health

Learning Outcomes Resources 

Websites