Student Learning Outcomes Initiative

Southeast Missouri State has initiated a project to develop a system for identifying, developing, implementing, assessing and reporting SLOs for all courses taught at Southeast.   Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes (“SLOs”) is a best practice that supports the basic mission of the university; teaching students. 

What is a Student Learning Outcome?

Student Learning Outcomes , or SLOs, are statements that specify what students will know, be able to do, or be able to demonstrate when they have completed or participated in a course, project, activity or program. Outcomes are usually expressed as knowledge (cognitive) or skills (behavioral) and specify an action by the student that must be observable, measurable and be able to be demonstrated.

Why are SLOs Important?  Why are we Assessing them?

If we consider that student learning is the primary objective for us when we teach then it makes sense that a learning outcome should be occurring.  SLOs are simply evidence of this learning.  There are indirect measures of student learning.  For example, a Student Evaluation of Instruction may include questions about the students' self-perception of their learning.  A direct measure would be evidence of achievement of the actual learning.  In both cases we have evidence that student learning has occurred.

Assessing SLOs gives us this direct evidence.  In itself this is obviously a good thing to do.  Additionally, the Higher Learning Commission requires as part of our regional accreditation that we assess and report SLOs.  Finally, the federal government is now expecting SLOs to be part of our definition of a credit hour, particularly for alternate forms of delivery such as blended, webinar and online courses.

What is the Plan?

The first step is to develop SLOs for courses that currently do not have formal learning outcomes.  All courses will be required to have at least 3 measurable SLOs that are assessed and reported each semester.  Courses can have more than 3 SLOs.  Three will be reported each semester.  Some departments already have course level SLOs which should be useable for this initiative. 

The next step will be to update course syllabi to include these SLOs.  Deans Council, Academic Council and Faculty Senate are developing a streamlined process for updating syllabi.  The official course syllabus template is likewise being updated to include a section for SLOs.

After the SLOs have been written and included in courses syllabi, they will be listed in the syllabi or other course materials handed out to students in a course. 

Finally, these SLOs will be assessed every semester and reported to the University Assessment Review Committee.  The reporting process is currently being developed and will be in place by the time SLOs are first reported next fall.

What is the Timeline?

This Spring (2012) we will be writing SLOs and including them in course syllabi.  In fall of 2012 SLOs will be included in syllabi or equivalent or related materials handed out to students in class.  Students will thus be aware of the expected learning outcomes they should be achieving in each course they take at Southeast.  SLOs will be assessed and reported for all courses in Fall 2012.  In 2013, all courses will assess and report SLOs at the end of the Spring 2013 semester.  SLOs will be assessed and reported in all courses taught every semester after that. 

How do we Create and Write SLOs?

SLOs have been around for awhile.  SLO projects similar to what we are undertaking at Southeast have occurred on numerous other college and university campuses.  Many campuses have SLOs posted on the web.  One of the easiest ways to get started is to look what others have done.  On the Writing SLOs page on this web site there are some suggestions on getting started with writing SLOs including examples from many relevant disciplines.  Other information and useful resources on SLOs are on the SLO Resources page.

Where can we get help with Creating and Assessing SLOs?

The SLO Q2 Committee will be working with CSTL to set up workshops and provide support for creating, implementing assessing and reporting SLOs.  The SLO Q2 Committee and the University Assessment Review Committee will also provide help and serve as support for the project. 

Who is Involved in this Project?

This is a University level initiative that will be implemented in Academic Affairs.  Departments and faculty will be developing the SLOs that will be part of every course taught at Southeast.  Faculty will be assessing and reporting the SLOs. 

The SLO Q2 Committee is initiating the project by setting the initial timeline, aiding faculty and departments in developing, assessing and reporting SLOs, and establishing the reporting process. The University Assessment Review Committee will oversee the process in the long run and will be working with the SLO Q2 Committee in the early phases and will maintain the process in the long term.