FAQs

University-Wide Undergraduate Learning Outcomes
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What are student learning outcomes?
  2. Why does SLU need university-wide student learning outcomes?
  3. Who is affected by these outcomes?
  4. Will there be University-wide graduate-level learning outcomes?
  5. How were these outcomes developed?
  6. Who was involved in the process of developing the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes?   
  7. How were students involved in the drafting process?
  8. What resources were consulted during the process of developing the outcomes?
  9. Are these outcomes just for academic programs/courses?
  10. What is the relationship between these outcomes and departmental/program outcomes?
  11. What is the relationship between these outcomes and individual course outcomes?
  12. What is the relationship between these outcomes and external accreditation expectations?
  13. Can I modify the University-wide student learning outcomes?
  14. How will these outcomes be measured?
  15. How are rubrics being developed for measuring these outcomes?
  16. How would I use these rubrics in my own course / program?
  17. How will artifacts of student learning be collected?
  18. Who is responsible for assessing whether and how these outcomes have been achieved?
  19. Does every student have to demonstrate achievement of these outcomes in order to graduate?
  20. What happens if students are not achieving these outcomes?
  21. How does the adoption of University-wide learning outcomes affect the faculty?
  22. How does the adoption of University-wide learning outcomes affect staff?
  23. How does the adoption of University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes affect students?
  24. What is the relationship between the undergraduate learning outcomes and the Five Dimensions of the SLU Experience?
  25. Going forward, what will be the process for amending / revising the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes?

 


  1. What are student learning outcomes?

    Student learning outcomes are the specific, measurable, institutional goals and expectations describing what students must know and be able to do. Having a set of clearly articulated shared student learning outcomes can help students to gain a better understanding of the purposes of, and connections among, their educational experiences and to cultivate skills needed after graduation. It also provides a foundation for meaningful assessment at the institution level. These outcomes can provide evidence of student learning, data which can be used to improve institutional communication, practices, and educational quality.

  2. Why does SLU need university-wide student learning outcomes?

    University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes provide a framework to establish and measure a distinctive undergraduate experience that is true to our mission and identity as a Catholic, Jesuit university. Further, it is matter of institutional fidelity to our mission. We are challenged to provide experiences that are true to our core identity, and we expect our graduates to exemplify characteristics that are consistent with our institutional mission.  

    In addition, the Higher Learning Commission [HLC Criteria for Accreditation (Pathways) 2012.pdf], echoing calls throughout national and international educational communities, requires SLU to develop university-wide student learning outcomes to assess student learning.

  3. Who is affected by these outcomes?

    University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes apply to all bachelor's degree-seeking undergraduates, regardless of college or school. Achievement of these outcomes is a) the collective responsibility of those who design and deliver educational programs for undergraduates, and b) the result of student engagement in integrated, cumulative (curricular and co-curricular) educational experiences at SLU.

  4. Will there be University-wide graduate-level learning outcomes?

    Yes - eventually. At this time the University is focused on implementing and assessing student learning outcomes at the undergraduate level; however, distinct graduate-level student learning outcomes will be developed in the future, which is an expectation from the Higher Learning Committee. 

  5. How were these outcomes developed?

    These student learning outcomes were developed by a group of faculty and staff members using both inductive and deductive methods. During the development of the student learning outcomes, a variety of factors were carefully considered, such as SLU's mission, the Five Dimensions of the SLU Experience, and both internal and external resources, including the Features of a SLU Jesuit Education document, existing student learning outcomes of SLU's current academic programs and core curricula, and the Division of Student Development outcomes.

    External resources included: Association of American Colleges & Universities' Liberal Education and America's Promise/LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, AAC&U's VALUE Rubrics, the Lumina Foundation's Degree Qualifications Profile, accreditation standards for programs and majors as appropriate, the Higher Learning Commission's new (2012) Criteria for Accreditation and Assumed Practices, and the Spring 2012 George Kuh presentation on student success at SLU.

  6. Who was involved in the process of developing the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes?

    In March 2012, a small task force of faculty and staff members began drafting a set of University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes. Chaired by Elizabeth Whitt (Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education), the group included: Heather Bednarek (John Cook School of Business), Lisa Dorsey (Doisy College of Health Sciences), Jay Hammond (Arts & Sciences), Mona Hicks (Dean of Students), Donna LaVoie (Arts & Sciences), Debie Lohe (Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning), and Steve Sanchez (Academic Affairs).

    Beginning in May 2012, the group met with stakeholder groups across the University to solicit input and feedback on drafts. These groups included: the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Committee (UAAC); the Council of Academic Deans and Directors (CADD); Academic Affairs leadership; Student Development leadership; Mission and Ministry leadership; Faculty Senate Executive Committee; and faculty leadership groups from: the College of Arts & Sciences; Doisy College of Health Sciences; John Cook School of Business; the College of Education and Public Service; the School of Public Health; University Libraries; the School of Nursing; the School for Professional Studies; Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology; the Student Government Association; Academic Advising Leadership, and SLU Madrid. Feedback from these groups shaped the development of subsequent drafts of the outcomes.

    In October 2012, the third draft of the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes was provided to the entire SLU community via a website devoted to the outcomes. The purpose of broad distribution of Draft 3 was to obtain broad feedback. To that end, five open fora also were held in October 2012: two on the Frost Campus, two on the Health Sciences Campus, and one with faculty and staff at SLU Madrid. Announcements about the open forum sessions, the website, and an email address to provide feedback were published in Newslink and via email to deans and directors of schools, colleges, and centers. About 40 faculty, staff and students attended the sessions.

    Throughout the process of creating and revising drafts  of the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes, feedback was obtained in discussions with 28 groups, including the five open fora, comprising about 450 faculty, staff, students, and administrators.

    In December 2012, the final draft of the outcomes received unanimous endorsement from the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Committee (UAAC) and the Council of Academic Deans and Directors (CADD), and unanimous approval by the President's Coordinating Council (PCC).

  7. How were students involved in the drafting process?

    While students did not serve on the task force (much of the early stages of this work occurred during the summer of 2012, when it was not feasible to have student representation), student feedback was sought through the open fora, as well as through multiple conversations with Student Government Association (SGA) leaders.  The SGA Executive Committee, Academic Affairs Committee, and the full Senate discussed, and provided feedback about, drafts, and the SGA representative on UAAC reported that the outcomes had unanimous support of SGA. 

  8. What resources were consulted during the process of developing the outcomes?

    Many internal and external resources were consulted, beginning with the SLU mission and existing student learning outcomes across the University and extending to national research on what today's students need for success after graduation.

    The following internal resources were consulted: the Five Dimensions of the SLU Experience, and both internal and external resources, including the Features of a SLU Jesuit Education document, existing student learning outcomes of SLU's current academic programs and core curricula, and the Division of Student Development outcomes.

    External resources included: Association of American Colleges & Universities' Liberal Education and America's Promise/LEAP Essential Learning Outcomes, AAC&U's VALUE Rubrics, the Lumina Foundation's Degree Qualifications Profile, accreditation standards for programs and majors as appropriate, the Higher Learning Commission's new (2012) Criteria for Accreditation and Assumed Practices, and the Spring 2012 George Kuh presentation on student success at SLU.

  9. Are these outcomes just for academic programs/courses?

    No. The University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes apply to all undergraduate educational programs across the institution - both curricular and co-curricular.

  10. What is the relationship between these outcomes and departmental/program outcomes?

    The University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes are grounded, in part, in existing program-level (e.g., major, core) outcomes, and individual programs serve, in part, to advance students toward the University-level outcomes. Thus, although individual programs are not responsible for implementing and assessing all University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes at the program or course level, elements of the broader outcomes will be evident in program-level efforts.

  11. What is the relationship between these outcomes and individual course outcomes?

    The outcomes are not designed to be course-level outcomes, and should not be perceived as such. Student achievement of University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes should be the result of successful student engagement in integrated, educational (curricular and co-curricular) programs and experiences.

  12. What is the relationship between these outcomes and external accreditation expectations?

    The University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes are related to both program-/major-level and University-level accreditation expectations. As with program-level outcomes (see FAQ 10), outcomes identified by external accreditors for all our accredited undergraduate programs informed development of the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes.

    In addition, expectations of the University's regional accreditor, The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), informed the process of developing, and planning to assess, University-wide student learning outcomes. The HLC's new criteria for accreditation - for which we will be held accountable -- call explicitly for clear and shared University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes, as well as specific plans and methods for assessing the achievement of the outcomes and use of assessment data for improvement.

  13. Can I modify the University-wide student learning outcomes?

    No. If individual faculty and staff want to incorporate elements of these outcomes into their own courses and programs, they may do so.

  14. How will these outcomes be measured?

    Measurement of student achievement of the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes will likely be conducted via faculty and staff evaluation of samples of student artifacts – such as research papers, reflection essays, exams, course projects, portfolios, etc. – against standards that will be articulated in evaluative rubrics developed by faculty and staff members for each set of outcomes. Rubric development is already underway; to find out more about the rubric development process and projected timelines, click here.

    In addition, other artifacts – such as University-wide assessments, exams, and surveys (e.g., the Collegiate Learning Assessment (http://www.collegiatelearningassessment.org/), the National Survey of Student Engagement (http://nsse.iub.edu/), the Graduate Record Examination http://www.ets.org/gre/), the Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency http://www.act.org/caap/), etc.), University-wide portfolios, or other institution-developed measures – might be required of and/or administered to all students or a sample population outside the context of courses and programs.

  15. How are rubrics being developed for measuring these outcomes?
    Like the process for developing the outcomes themselves, the rubric development process is intentionally integrative, bringing together faculty and staff from across the campus and, ultimately, involving students. A week-long summer rubric development retreat was held in June 2013; this week resulted in an initial draft of four rubrics, one for measuring each of the four main outcomes. (To see the initial drafts, click here) More faculty and staff were involved in refining and revising these initial drafts later in the summer. A second set of drafts can be accessed by clicking here. In Fall 2013, student input will be sought, as well. Ultimately, the goal is to have workable drafts that can be used in a pilot assessment of sample student artifacts in Fall 2013-Spring 2014. This pilot will lead to further refinement, so that the University can begin using final drafts of the rubrics for institutional assessment in Summer 2014.

  16. How would I use these rubrics in my own course / program?
    You wouldn't. These rubrics are intended to assess institution-level achievement of the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes only.

  17. How will artifacts of student learning be collected?
    At some institutions, all students maintain a learning portfolio, which they populate with artifacts that demonstrate achievement of stated university goals. At SLU, we plan to start this initiative more simply, by collecting artifacts of student work provided by faculty and staff members, and not by students directly. Examples of possible artifacts linked to the proposed outcomes can be found here. However, we eventually might opt to move to a more comprehensive process that requires students to select artifacts from their own educational experiences that they feel exemplify their achievement of the outcomes best and to reflect on the connections among learning experiences.

  18. Who is responsible for assessing whether and how these outcomes have been achieved?

    Because these are University-level outcomes, the Assistant Vice President for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness in the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs is responsible for coordinating their assessment.

  19. Does every student have to demonstrate achievement of these outcomes in order to graduate?

    No. Samples of student work will be collected and evaluated for the purpose of assessing the University, not individual students.

  20. What happens if students are not achieving these outcomes?

    Evaluation of student achievement of University-wide learning outcomes is conducted to measure the quality of the University - not the quality of individual students. If significant numbers of students regularly fail to achieve a particular outcome, we will review educational experiences- in most cases, from multiple curricular and co-curricular sources- that have been designed to achieve the given outcome. Revisions to those programs might be needed, and/or the learning outcomes themselves might need to be refined.

  21. How does the adoption of University-wide learning outcomes affect the faculty?

    Student achievement of University-wide outcomes is the result of successful student engagement in integrated (curricular and co-curricular) educational experiences. Therefore, no individual faculty member will assess individual student progress toward those outcomes. However, depending on the data collection and assessment methods SLU decides to adopt, faculty members could be asked to participate in data collection and/or assessment in a variety of ways.

    Many institutions generate a list of students, then collect multiple examples of students' work as artifacts that demonstrate (directly or indirectly) student achievement of the institution-level learning outcomes. If SLU were to adopt such a model, faculty members might may be asked to provide samples of work for a cross-section of students. In most cases these artifacts would be existing work from course assignments. In addition to participating in the collection of artifacts, some faculty members will be invited to review collected artifacts to assess the aggregate achievement of the undergraduate learning outcomes across the institution.

  22. How does the adoption of University-wide learning outcomes affect staff?

    Individual staff members do not need to assess individual student progress toward the University-wide student learning outcomes. Some staff members might be asked to assist with the collection and/or analysis of artifacts (e.g., student work, such as essays, multimedia projects, reflection papers, exams, etc.) used to assess student achievement of institutional learning outcomes.

  23. How does the adoption of University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes affect students?

    Student achievement of these institutional-level learning outcomes is the result of successful student engagement in integrated (curricular and co-curricular) educational experiences at SLU. To that end, students might be asked to collect and present artifacts for the University assessment. These artifacts could include essays, exams, lab reports, portfolios, fine arts or other projects, reflection papers, research papers, videotaped performances, speeches, survey responses, etc. In addition, other artifacts might be required of and/or administered to all students or a sampled population outside the context of courses and programs.

  24. What is the relationship between the undergraduate learning outcomes and the Five Dimensions of the SLU Experience?

    Adopted in 2002, The Five Dimensions of the Saint Louis University Experience are derived from SLU's mission and articulate the University's conception of holistic student formation rooted in our Jesuit heritage.  The Five Dimensions were intended as a broad educational framework within which measurable student learning outcomes could be developed.   The adoption of the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes is the culmination of this process .

    The Five Dimensions  do not "align" with the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes, either individually or collectively. They simply served as a framework to guide the development of the outcomes.

    All Five Dimensions influence and inform all of the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes and, ideally, shape all students' educational experiences at SLU. Cumulatively, student achievement of the outcomes will advance students in all of the Five Dimensions.

  25. Going forward, what will be the process for amending / revising the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes?

    The outcomes will be evaluated on an ongoing basis, both through assessment of student achievement of the outcomes and through evaluation of their use and usefulness. In the event evidence demonstrates a need to alter one or more of the outcomes, a consensus-building process will again be used to make appropriate changes.

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