Your Browser Doesn't support the Javascript Process
Skip navigation

East Los Angeles College

ELAC HOME
Process
Student Learning Outcomes Process

  • What's a Student Learning Outcome?

    Student learning outcomes are the specific, measurable goals and results that are expected subsequent to a learning experience.

    These outcomes may involve knowledge (cognitive), skills (behavioral), or attitudes (affective behavior) that display evidence that learning has occurred, at a specified level of competency, as a result of a course or program.

    SLOs are clear and assessable statements that define what a student is able to KNOW, UNDERSTAND, and DO at the completion of a course or program.

    In essence, SLOs assure instructors that actual learning is taking place, and that students are not simply repeating lecture information for the purpose of passing a class. SLOs shift the focus of the class from a teaching to a learning environment.

    As experts in their discipline, instructors are aware of the latest trends and information that students need to be aware of to be competitive in those areas of study. SLOs provide a great opportunity for instructors to focus their efforts in ensuring that students are learning that which is up-to-date and necessary to be successful.

    As each SLO cycle is completed, instructors have a chance to modify their SLOs to reflect any changes, innovation, discoveries, or any other new material in their discipline.

  • Goals - Objectives - Student Learning Outcomes

    At first glance it may seem a bit confusing to distinguish between goals, objectives, and SLOs. It helps to remember that SLO are measurable outcomes students should be able to do upon completion of a course. Here are definitions and samples of each:

    • Course Goals: The Purpose of the course.
      Sample: "The goal of this nutrition course is to prioritize key nutrition behaviors, identify health and nutrition needs, and integrate these behaviors into health interventions, educational policy, and training."
    • Course Objectives: Specific teaching objectives detailing course content and activities.
      Sample: "Describe resources and strategies to treat nutritional resources."
    • Course SLOs: Describe what a student will be able to do at the end of the course
      Sample: "A student will be able to analyze a documented nutritional problem, determine a strategy to correct the problem, and write a draft nutritional policy addressing the broader scope of the problem."

    OBJECTIVES SLOs
    Objectives represent valuable skills, tools, or content (nuts and bolts) that enable a student to engage a particular subject. SLOs represent overarching products of the course.
    Objectives focus on content and skills important within the classroom or program: what the staff and faculty will do. Often termed the input in the course. SLOs express higher level thinking skills that integrate the content and activities and can be observed as a behavior, skill, or discrete useable knowledge upon completing the class.
    Objectives can often be numerous, specific, and detailed. Assessing and reporting on each objective for each student may be impossible. An assessable outcome is an end product that can be displayed or observed and evaluated against criteria.
  • Benefits of Student Learning Outcomes

    • SLOs help define course content.

      SLOs help us focus on the relevant and contemporary content in our disciplines to use in my courses. As a business instructor, it is challenging for me to stay current with all the new data surfacing on a daily basis, while at the same time displacing the old, comfortable, but maybe even outdated aspects of my discipline.

      As new information comes out, SLOs allow me to select new and appropriate material to integrate, and to remove that which is not providing my students with the tools to reach the learning outcome and to remain competitive in the modern world. As SLOs focus my attention on what students will be able to do at the end of the course, I am personally compelled to remain up-to-date, and to constantly bring dynamic and fresh material into the classroom.

    • SLOs help us be intentional about our work.

      SLOs require us to us be intentional in our work by asking questions like: "What do we want our students to learn as a result of participating in our courses, programs, services, and activities?" No longer are we simply covering information for the sake of covering it. In a sense, SLOs give us a great sense of purpose in our teaching, and allow us to truly take ownership of our course material.

    • SLOs can alter classroom interaction.

      One very evident advantage gained from developing SLOs for a course is the significant change in classroom interaction with students, and the learning achievement that occurs as a result of what the outcomes should be.

      It is not unusual for students to share that they more clearly understand what they are expected to do rather than what the course will cover. Consequently, students are better equipped to point out areas in which they are experiencing difficulty for themselves, rather than depending on the instructor to single out or even guess the areas in which students are lacking.

      SLOs define what students are expected to do at the end of the course thereby guiding them to selectively pick and choose the methods of study, and better digest and synthesize material covered throughout the course.

      Students who are aware of the SLOs for the course realize that they are without excuse because they clearly understand the expectations throughout the course. It is common for these students to visit their instructors during office hours more often, so as to ensure that they are where they should be in regards to the expectations placed on them.

    • Direct and guide the types of assessment needed.

      SLOs provide the foundation for exams, for instructors who choose to use imbedded questions into midterms or finals. Although in their case instructors must initially take time to develop the SLOs, they actually save time and work later in the semester.

      Since instructors want the students to be able to DO something when they complete the course, instructors no longer have to ask essay or multiple choice questions about a skill they should develop. Students simply have to perform the task to be evaluated.

      SLOs help instructors focus on higher order thinking skills as they assess student competencies, because they are aware that ultimately must know not only the material, but be able to use it.

    • SLOs and Assessment produce practical and constructive data to modify pedagogy.

      Each SLO represents a measurable goal; therefore we are able to analyze feedback from students concerning their mastery of the material and their ability to integrate information at a higher thinking level. For example, students can provide evidence of evaluation and analysis of material versus memorization.

      Assessment methods provide instructors with skilled diagnostic techniques to determine changes in their approach to class material. Some activities may be fine-tuned if they require too much energy in comparison to the actual benefit as measured by the outcome.

      Dynamic learning based on outcomes has sometimes required instructors to take unexpected detours, spend more time on a subject, turn lecture into a discussion, or create another assignment. Being focused on learning outcomes as a guide may mean that instructors skip some content or reduce the time spent on some material. Learning outcomes help prioritize what material is most beneficial to achieving the SLO.

    • SLOs help instructors determine the activities that lead to learning.

      Previously I determined class activities by gut level instincts (which aren't that bad, but are hard to explain to others) and student responses concerning how they liked an activity. These are good information, but do not provide data that students have actually learned something.

      SLOs represent an ultimate measurable goal, therefore instructors are able to analyze feedback from students concerning their mastery of material and their ability to integrate information at a higher level of thinking e.g. evaluation and analysis of material versus memorization.

      Assessment methods provide instructors with skilled diagnostic techniques to determine changes in the approach to the course material. Professors have found that some activities, while fun, require too much energy in comparison to the actual benefit as measured by the outcomes. In some cases they are able to tweak activities to maximize learning and involvement from the students.

      Dynamic learning based on outcomes has sometimes required that instructors take unexpected detours, spend more time on a subject, turn a lecture into a discussion, or create another assignment. Because of the focus on learning outcomes, this may mean they have to skip some content or reduce the time spent on some material. With the learning outcomes as a guide, this can become an easy task because they can prioritize what material is most beneficial to achieving the outcomes.

    • SLOs and Assessment have stimulated valuable professional dialogue with colleagues.

      The SLO process contributes to a focus on diagnostic tools and constructive strategies to reach outcomes. Faculty members teaching within the same discipline often times can agree and operate on the same outcomes, while still using varying vehicles and methods to get there. This allows the faculty to share strategies and expand out repertoire.

      In situations in which a course feeds into another, or in which the material covered in one course supports another, the SLOs and Assessment provide data to compare and adjust how to integrate and build on the content to produce better learning.

      A very common end result to integrating SLOs is that conversations between colleagues is less often focused on complaining about the poor level of students, and instead on the diagnostic tools and constructive strategies to reach the learning outcomes.

    • SLOs are vital to the improvement cycle.

      As the faculty collectively assesses the results, adjustments are made in the curriculum or pedagogy, if necessary. As the results are reported, improvements and corrections are made so as to improve the entire cycle and ensure that each step in the SLO process is more effective.

  • Writing SLOs from scratch

    9 Steps to Writing SLOs

    While you may never have written an SLO before, chances are that have been using the same concept in the classroom based on your intuitiveness and professional experience. The key is to communicate your goals, outcomes, and criteria.

    1. Consider the values and practices important within your course or program.
    2. Consider program dynamics as presented below:
      Instructional Courses or Program Outcomes Student Services Programs
      Name a specific course or program Name a specific program or service. For example, Admissions and Records.
      Are there any prerequisites for this course?
      Does this course serve as a prerequisite for any other course?
      With what other key areas does this program interface?
      Course purpose Purpose, mission, or function that best describes this program's role in student learning
    3. As the expert in your course or program, think about the 5-7 most important things a student should leave your course / program being able to do. These should be 5-7 things that you will be able to assess. Think of the following:
      • Attitudes or values developed as a result of this course
      • Skills or performance ability as a result of this course
      • Knowledge and concepts students will have as a result of this course
    4. Spend time brainstorming and writing words that express knowledge, skills, or values that integrate the most important values of your class. If needed, use the table below to assist you as you select words.
      Attitudes or values developed as a result of this course
      Skills or performance ability as a result of this course
      Knowledge and concepts they will have as a result of this course
    5. As you write the SLO, be sure to use active verbs and Bloom's Taxonomy to craft sentences that are clear and assessable (measurable)
    6. Compare the SLO with:
      • Course Outlines
      • Core Concepts as presented by professional organizations
      • External expectations such as board requirements or standards
      • Articulation and pre-requisite agreements
  • Simple SLO Cycle (Illustration)

    • Create SLO
    • Assess Student Learning
    • Evaluate Data and Seek Ways to Improve Learning
    • Re-Examine Process
      image of simple process