Student Learning Outcomes & Assessment Cycle (SLOAC)
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some frequently asked questions about Student Learning
What is an SLO?
An SLO, or Student Learning Outcome (SLO), is essentially a goal that you set
for both your students and yourself. What do you expect your students
to have learned by the end of the semester, and what can they do with
that knowledge? What are the primary
things that you want to teach them? These are your SLOs. Think of an SLO as
if completing this sentence, "Upon completion of this
project/class/program/degree, the student should be able to..." Such
SLOs can be put into play at multiple levels.
What is the purpose of the assignment? What particular skills
or knowledge does it attempt to measure? How does it relate to the
overall content and themes of the course?
Course-level SLOs (SLOs):
What is the purpose of the course? What particular skills or
knowledge does it attempt to communicate? What do you expect
students who complete the course to have learned? How does this
relate to the overall content and purpose of your Program?
Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs):
What is the purpose of your Program? What skills or knowledge do you
expect students who take multiple courses in the Program to come away
with? What are the consistent themes that carry over from course to
course? How do these themes relate to our Institutional goals?
Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
What is the purpose of the College? What skills or knowledge
should every Chabot graduate have acquired while attending classes here?
These questions have already been largely addressed by the excellent
prior work done in formulating our
College-wide Learning Goals.
We address these competencies in five broad areas:
- Global and Cultural Involvement
- Civic Responsibility: Cultural, Economic, Historical, Political
- Critical Thinking
- Development of the Whole Person
Are there any other
definitions that might make this a little clearer?
From Cabrillo College:
"A Student Learning Outcome is different from a course objective. SLOs
for the classroom describe the knowledge, skills, abilities or attitudes
that a student can demonstrate by the end of your course."
College: "Student Learning Outcomes are the degree to which
students are learning what is intended for them to learn, whether on the
course, program, or institutional level."
Oxnard College: "A student learning outcome is a statement of
expectation that articulates what students will know, do, or feel as a
result of a 'treatment' where what students have learned is assessed,
documented, and used for improving learning."
From Diablo Valley
College: "A student learning outcome is a statement of what a
learner is expected to know, understand or be able to do as a result of a
learning process. The intended educational outcomes must be consistent
with the institutional mission."
How do SLOs differ
from the "Expected Outcomes" listed on our course outlines?
When drafting Title V compliant course outlines, you are asked to list
"Expected Outcomes," which can be thought of as the main topics that will be
addressed by the course. This list must be exhaustive enough to meet
the requirements of equivalent classes at UC and CSU so that our course will
articulate. This can be thought of as the "microcontent" of the class:
the specifics of what faculty are expected to cover when teaching a
SLOs operate at the "macro" level, in that they ask you to address the
bigger picture. They shift the emphasis from the specifics of what is
being taught to the generality of what has actually been learned. For
example, if you are teaching your daughter to put on her seatbelt, adjust
her mirrors, start the car, put on her turn signal, turn her head to look
behind her and then pull out of the parking spot, then she is learning to
SLOs versus Course Objectives - While Course Objectives "think
about content or coverage," SLOs "consider what students should be able to
DO with what they've learned by the end of the semester."
College: "The key difference between objectives and outcomes is
the shift in focus from what we teach to what we expect students to learn
and ideally master. Lisa Brewster of Miramar Community College, which
recently underwent accreditation, cited the following example from a career
course. One objective is for instructors 'to provide students with
opportunities to develop their leadership skills."
The outcome, on the other hand, is for students 'to develop leadership,
organizational, and interpersonal skills, and be able to express them in a
job interview.' Note that this outcome example also provides a context
for learning and moves toward a means to evaluate the student's performance.
In short, SLO's demonstrate the extent to which student performance meets
expectations of learning."
What does an SLO look like?
SLOs use active words to demonstrate the degree to which students are
internalizing the lessons of their coursework. According to
Bloom's Taxonomy, the greater the level of abstraction to which students
can demonstrate their newly acquired knowledge, the more thoroughly the
knowledge has been acquired.
If you want your students to acquire and demonstrate one of the skills
listed in Bloom's Taxonomy -- Knowledge, Comprehension, Application,
Analysis, Synthesis, Evaluation --
corresponding verb from the chart linked here. Always defer to the
higher level of cognition, it includes the lower. It is good to
keep in mind that as the information available in today's global citizenship
explodes, the rote memorization of facts becomes less meaningful, and the
application, synthesis, and reframing of what is learned becomes more
Can you show me some sample SLOs?
Here are a bunch from different disciplines.
By the end of the course, students should be able to:
AMERICAN HISTORY - Demonstrate knowledge of a basic narrative of
American History: political, economic, social, and cultural, including
knowledge of unity and diversity in American society. (SUNY Brockport, NY)
ANTHROPOLOGY - Forensic Anthropology: Using the basic principles of
forensic anthropology, analyze skeletonized human remains to
determine sex, age at death, height and genetic ancestry. (Cabrillo College,
ATHLETICS - Preseason Intercollegiate Water Polo - Men: Analyze
and customize principles of cardiovascular fitness, muscular
strength, endurance, and flexibility to water polo, and apply them to
prevent injury. (Cabrillo College, CA)
ART HISTORY - Given two paintings – each from a different historical
period – determine which period each is from, describe how
imagery is used in each, and contrast how each reflects the
cultural norms of the period. (Miami University, OH)
CHEMISTRY - Students will identify a suitable research question,
design an appropriate experimental procedure to resolve the
question, carry out the experiment, and report the results
in a format appropriate for a scientific journal. (Miami University, OH)
CRIMINAL JUSTICE - Describe the principles of community-based
policing and apply them to given situations. (California Assessment
DANCE - Street Dance and Hip Hop: Perform, with an increasing
degree of proficiency, simple Hip Hop movements, demonstrating
increasing control of skills pertaining to memorization, physical safety,
body awareness, alignment, and aesthetic valuing. (Cabrillo College, CA)
GEOLOGY - Analyze how the earth's oceans are a part of the
earth's systems from geological, chemical, biological and physical
perspectives. (Miami University, OH)
MATH - Given a geometric system, students will determine what
algebraic properties apply to this system. (Miami University, OH)
PHOTOGRAPHY - Manually operate a 35 mm camera to create
original photographs applying principles of exposure and
development of black and white photographic films and papers with concepts
of composition and design, aesthetics and content. (California Assessment
SPEECH - Organize, outline and deliver
well-researched speeches to inform and persuade that are
tailored to a specific audience. (California Assessment Institute)
THEATER - Intro to Acting: Select, analyze, and
perform selections from dramatic texts utilizing the
performance skills of memorization, vocal projection, spatial awareness,
stage directions and physical expression. (Cabrillo College, CA)
If you set a goal, you need to have a way of determining whether or not
it has been met, and to what extent; this is the purpose of assessment.
Further, if you determine that your goal has not been met, you are now in a
better position to change your strategy to attempt or assure success the next time.
You might find curricular revision, new pedagogical approaches, or even
revision to your CLO to be in order.
The primary rule to be applied when formulating SLOs is that they must be
assessable; there must be some way to measure student success in achieving
those goals. The difference between grading and assessment is that in
grading you factor in all the outcomes, plus maybe criteria such as whether
the assignment was turned in late, and average them for a grade for that one
student. In outcomes assessment you keep the layers of outcomes
separate, so that you can see how the whole class/program/college is doing
on a particular outcome.
When outcomes are specified within a particular assignment that already
exists in the course, this is called embedded assessment. You could
select five multiple choice questions which exist in your test to measure a
When outcomes are measured through a student actually applying the
learning in a real-life experience such as doing a dance step or tuning a
car engine, this is authentic assessment. This form of assessment is
highly desirable, in fact WASC needs to see this, as in the past colleges
relied too heavily on off-the-shelf large-scale tests.
When an outcome is measured through a student satisfaction survey or an
in class-poll, this is called indirect assessment. It might also be
referred to as qualitative assessment, as it takes a narrative, and not
numerical, or quantitative form.
As no assessment practice is truly statistically irrefutable, the more
and varied approaches we use, the healthier our process. When
different measurements come to the same conclusions, this is called
triangulation. Assessment is action research, not experimental
research. It does not have the precision, rigor, or generalizability
of the latter. However, as many faculty can attest, through the
feedback loop to students, the experimentation with crafting new learning
experiences, and the discussions with colleagues, it does serve to improve
When you formulate your course-level SLOs, ask yourself which exams or
assignments you have been using to assess them. Do you assign a final
essay with the expectation that students will necessarily refer to certain
points of information from their studies? Do you administer a final
exam with sets of questions that test different areas of the coursework
covered? Do you evaluate a final project by looking for certain
criteria to be fulfilled?
The essay, exam, or project is the assessment tool, and recognizing the
criteria by which you judge it is the first step toward constructing a
What are rubrics?
A rubric is a measurement scale you make up for yourself when you set out
to grade an exam or assignment. Ask yourself what skills or knowledge
you would like your students to demonstrate in that assignment, how you know
the students have achieved this outcome at a beginning, developing,
competent, and accomplished level. Chabot has adopted four point
analytic rubrics for our CLOs, the gold standard of rubrics! These
actually make our SLOs clearer to us.
You can break down your CLO into several criteria for measurement areas,
and write a rubric for each, or write one rubric for each CLO. Often
several CLOs will factor into a culminating student experience.
You can now use your rubrics in other very effective ways beyond the
evaluation of the SLOs on your own. You can develop agreed upon
rubrics with your other faculty, and align your teaching practices somewhat
or learn from one another.
Students learn better when they know what they are learning, and how they
will be evaluated, why they are learning it, and how they will apply it to
their future work and lives. Share your rubrics with them at every
assignment! Give them multiple opportunities for improvement
throughout the course by giving them formative feedback, through the use of
your rubrics. Consider having them assist you in creating assignment
rubrics, as students often display very high standards for themselves.
Also, your grading policies will not only be transparent to your students,
but they will also be more consistent.
You could have an agreed upon set of outcomes with rubrics that your
discipline uses for outcomes assessment. You could expand it for your
own use in grading if you value additional skills. Grading assignments
and papers will now go a lot faster.
have any sample SLOs and rubrics to see?
to our new matrix, which displays our newest CLOs and rubrics submitted.
PSYCH/ Counseling 36 is a good example of rubrics which measure increasingly
higher cognitive levels.
How did we get here and why are we doing this?
This is perhaps the most important question. In his book "US
Accreditation and the Future of Quality Assurance" (2008), Peter Ewell
outlines the history of the dual movements, assessment for learning, and
assessment for accredibility: "Other nations have caught up to and in
some cases surpassed US degree attainment rates at a time when possessing a
college degree is more important than ever...The so-called "assessment
movement" in US higher education, aimed at gathering systematic evidence
about student learning outcomes, began in the mid-1980s in the wake of
several prominent curricular reform reports..." With pressure growing from
the US government to account for high student loan default rates, an
increasing distrust of the American public for institutions of higher
education, and the opaque peer review processes of the regional accreditors,
we have been asked to show evidence of institutional effectiveness based on
outputs, or evidence of student learning.
At the same time, educators since the mid 1980's have increasingly
understood and embraced the enhanced practices of measuring and improving
student learning that assessment affords. It is in fact a natural
process for us to assess and provide feedback to our students, and them to
us, so that we may both continue to evolve and improve. Assessment for
learning is the slowing down of this process, so that we main gain more
insights into how to improve learning. These two assessment practices
have become entwined such that the accreditors themselves value student
learning and authentic assessment above everything else, and so should (and
How can I get started?
The pages at the left for CLOs, PLOs, and assessment contain a lot of
good material for this work. If you're stuck at writing CLOs and
rubrics, or have any other questions regarding outcomes, rubrics, and
assessment, contact Carole Splendore or your SLOAC Committee Representative.
This page was last updated 9.6.10