News and Announcements Archive
Course learning outcomes
The following addresses changes to course syllabi required by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) for our upcoming university accreditation process in 2016-17. However, regardless of HLC requirements, the following essential addition to your course syllabi will be helpful to students, faculty, and academic programs as the university moves forward in efforts to assess student learning.
Both the Council of Undergraduate Administrators and the Curriculum and Instruction Committee of the Academic Senate have provided input and endorsement of the course syllabus guidelines found at http://undergrad.wayne.edu/pdf/syllabus-guidelines.pdf. These guidelines cover a variety of categories of information that are intended to assist instructors in creating more informative and comprehensive syllabi for their classes. The guidelines are meant to supplement (not replace) school, college, or departmental syllabus guidelines or requirements that may already be in use; these guidelines are not intended to replace course-specific materials provided by the individual instructor.
Many of the guideline items are already found in course syllabi (e.g., faculty contact information, required readings, and grading policies). Other materials (e.g., information on religious holidays or the Academic Success Center) are meant simply to be “cut and pasted” into your syllabus as needed for your classes.
Course Learning Outcomes
As we prepare for the 2016-2017 Higher Learning Commission (HLC) university-wide accreditation process, the HLC evaluators will be eyeing our course syllabi for information mainly contained in the first four bullet points of the syllabus guidelines. In particular, we need to introduce learning outcomes into all our course syllabi. Currently, syllabi for all new course proposals must contain learning outcomes; within the next few semesters we need to include such outcomes in all our Wayne State syllabi. Some of the colleges and schools (e.g., Engineering, Education, Social Work) already require syllabi to contain course learning outcomes.
Learning outcomes are informative for the students in clarifying course expectations and content. Such outcomes also can help the instructor focus on the most important course materials and goals by assisting in the alignment of student assessment and instruction. Moreover, course learning outcomes help each department with the assessment of its program learning outcomes. Course outcomes are meant to be measured in ways appropriate for that course (e.g., exam, project, portfolio, presentation); the achievement of outcomes through the course measurements is evidence that students are learning.
Please note that course learning outcomes should be identical across all sections of the same course. The various instructors of the same course, and departments or programs generally, will most certainly want to confer on this matter.
Helpful Web Links
For those who would like to read some helpful materials on the definition and creation of course outcomes, a number of useful web links can be found below. Hopefully, these materials will provide answers to questions you might have regarding the creation of your own course outcomes. While some authors use the terms “goals,” “objectives,” and “outcomes” interchangeably, others note specific differences among these terms (mainly in regard to scope or generality, moving from the most general term [goals] to the most specific [outcomes]). Try not to get hung up on a precise definition or differences among the terms. Instead, create approximately 3 to 10 somewhat general outcomes you want your students to learn or be able to do by the end of the semester. For example, “At the end of this course, students will be able to work cooperatively in a small group environment.” Or, “at the end of this course, students will be able to understand the four major theoretical perspectives and their historical evolution.”
Other Helpful Resources
Googling the title of your course (e.g., “Introduction to Geology”) and adding “learning outcomes,” “learning goals,” or “learning objectives” to the Google search will probably result in a number of “hits” you will likely find helpful as examples as you consider your own priorities and write learning outcomes for your courses.
In the Fall 2013 semester, the Office of Teaching and Learning (OTL) will offer workshops that include support for the creation of course learning outcomes. If you prefer one-on-one assistance, both the OTL and Dr. Naida Simon can provide individual consultations.
Margaret E. Winters
Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs