Palomar College - Learning for Success
Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment
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What Are Student Learning Outcomes?

Student Learning Outcomes are a result of an increased emphasis on the assessment of student learning as a means to evaluate and improve educational effectiveness. Current ACCJC (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges) standards require institutions to identify SLOs for all courses, programs, certificates and degrees, and for all student services. We are expected to assess these outcomes and use the results as a basis for making changes and improvements, if necessary. By 2012, we need to demonstrate that we have SLOs and assessment plans for these areas, and that we use the assessment results planning and budgeting.  The current rubric used by ACCJC describes this as the “proficiency level” which is where we need to be by 2012. The College must have SLOs in place at these levels: course, program, institution/GE, and service areas. The College must demonstrate that our decision-making is based on assessment results. Further, we must communicate these SLOs to students.

The Cycle. SLOAC is: Student Learning Outcome Assessment Cycle.

It consists of these 5 steps: defining and writing SLOs and assessment plans; conducting the assessments; evaluating the results; and making adjustments for us and our students based on those assessment results. The cycle repeats as faculty and the College review the courses, programs, and services and/or want to make changes to the SLOs and assessments.

Assessment. As faculty, we assess students regularly. We use test, quiz, and assignment results to evaluate individual student progress. The results are given to students as feedback on their progress and/or achievement. Note that the grade we give a student can reflect the student’s knowledge, but it can also reflect a result of student behavior, e.g. missing or incomplete assignments resulting from absenteeism or other reasons for not completing course requirements.

Student Learning Outcomes are designed to be assessed in order to provide input to faculty and to the college specifically about the students’ knowledge, abilities, and behavior. In contrast to how we evaluate students individually, the SLO itself is assessed to see how groups of students are doing. The results are used to evaluate student learning in general and to give evidence for making any changes for improvement, if necessary.

All accrediting agencies today require colleges to engage in ongoing assessment. Assessment can serve two major purposes: to provide our accrediting agency with evidence of student learning and program quality, and to gain useful information we can use to improve our programs and services for students. Through assessment, we can identify and celebrate our successes, and investigate and improve areas in which our students may not be learning or growing as much as we would want.

Assessing outcomes may appear threatening to us. Students come to us from very diverse backgrounds with very diverse needs. Not all students will pass our classes or graduate. Some students do not care, and they do not try. That being said, we can also acknowledge that there are many students who do care, who do study, and who can and do pass our courses and programs and graduate. It is our engagements with these students that make a difference. What improvements or changes can we make that will more effectively help our students? This process begins by using evidence (data) to make those improvements. The cycle of articulating desired outcomes, assessing those outcomes, and using the data for improvement, is called the assessment loop. Click here for more information on defining, writing, and assessing SLOs.

How Can SLOAC Help Us? While institutions are required to implement learning outcomes, the process has several benefits to us and to our students. Notable is the increased dialog among faculty about how our students are learning. In today’s dynamic world and in today’s learning environment such as the one in which we teach, it is critical that we keep current with our students’ needs while maintaining the integrity and standards of our courses, programs, and our institution’s goals. Additionally, as faculty we can better identify what the institution can do to assist us if we have evidence of what is needed. Ultimately, as faculty we care about student learning and what we, as professionals, can do to help our students to succeed.

How Can SLOAC Help Our Students? Communicating learning outcomes to students will provide an upfront understanding of what students are expected to demonstrate by the end of a course, program, degree, or a service that we provide to the student. Increased communication between the faculty and the student is a benefit as well as increased communication between the College and the student.

Learning outcomes should not be a mystery to students, and all SLOs should be broadly disseminated to them. The ACCJC standards explicitly state this, so we are therefore charged to demonstrate strategies to communicate SLOs to students. It is important that we discuss as an institution how this will be done.

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SLOAC Workshops

 SLOAC workshops will resume in Fall 2012.


Contact Information

Wendy Nelson
(760) 744-1150 ext. 2451

Katy French
(760) 744-1150 ext. 3640

SLOAC Office

The SLOAC Office is closed during Summer 2012.


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