Blog Post

Grade Smarter

The Value of Student Learning Outcomes

Student learning outcomes (SLO) are a key ingredient in an assessment plan. They are clear statements that specify the expected knowledge, skills, and competencies a student will have acquired after completing a class, degree of study, or graduating from an institution. They should be usable, transparent, but also realistic. The assessment of student learning outcomes puts student learning front-and-center. At the class level, SLOs measure student mastery. For the institution, student learning objectives serve as a way to measure the continued improvement of academic quality.

While we are primarily talking about SLOs on the student level, here is an example of the campus-wide learning outcomes (CWLO) from Portland State University’s website.

Direct Assessment Measures

There are various forms of assessment of student learning, and many classroom assignments can be used to measure the student learning outcomes. Course-embedded assessment measures are often selected because they take place in the classroom, take advantage of student motivation to do well, and directly assess what is taught in the classroom. Direct assessment measures include:

  • Quizzes and exams
  • Classroom polls
  • Term papers and theses
  • Embedded assessments
  • Portfolios
  • Group projects
  • Lab assignments

Learning objectives are stated in measurable and actionable verbs performed by students. These actions frequently mirror the high-order thinking skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is another good reason to use an assessment blueprint when designing a test. Selecting the correct verb is important to the skill measured and the linkage of related assessments. Here are some verbs to consider include:

You might think of assessment as a multi-step process in which you:

  1. Develop student learning goals
  2. Communicate the goals to students
  3. Develop a test blueprint to assess the goals
  4. Administer assessments
  5. Collect data
  6. Analyze students’ performance
  7. Develop plans for future success

The assessment is not actually complete until the ultimate payoff is achieved which is aiding departments in improving their programs. This is arguably the most difficult step in the process.

 

Mark Espinola
Founder + CEO of GradeHub