Connecting the course and program learning outcomes to the goals via institutional outcomes

In an email on Thursday evening I proposed a way to unify the strategic plan with the student learning outcomes for academic programs.1

The recent curriculum committee effort was a top-down approach. In this note I am proposing a solution built from the bottom up. I have no authority to embark on the following, this is all solely my personal opinion.

I went through all 98 program learning outcomes for associate degree programs at the college and aggregated each and every outcome into broad categories. I then consolidated the categories and used Bloom's taxonomy to further help refine the categories. I found that six broad categories could be used to categorize each and every one of the 98 program learning outcomes. These are the six categories that I developed:

iSLO# Category Students will be able to...
1 knowledge define, describe, demonstrate, and explain knowledge within a field of study.
2 skills apply, use, perform, exhibit, and demonstrate skills required of a particular career or field of endeavor.
3 creativity plan, design, develop, seek, find, synthesize, and create solutions, strategies, documents, and products.
4 intellect exhibit the capacity for independent thought and critical thinking.
5 communication communicate effectively through writing, speaking, performing, exhibiting, or other forms of expression.
6 analysis acquire, interpret, analyze, assess, and evaluate information.

The attached spreadsheet details the assignment of categories to the 98 program learning outcomes on the pSLO spreadsheet tab. I would suggest that the six categories are institutional student learning outcomes. I would be so bold as to assert that these then agglomerate to the following new goal one:

Promote learning and teaching for knowledge, skills, creativity, intellect, and the abilities to analyze new information and communicate effectively.

What happened to student success and satisfaction? Again, at the risk of being facetious, what college seeks to achieve student failure and dissatisfaction? Of course we want our students to succeed and to be satisfied. But that is not the raison de etre for the department of instructional affairs.

I do not wish to disrespect the work done by the planning council retreat this past summer, but I would propose that the above statement or some variant thereof would make a stronger goal one.

Then course level assessments of student learning would aggregate to form program assessments of student learning which would aggregate to form institutional assessment of learning which would support the above goal which serves the mission of the college as a learning centered institution. In this regard I want to thank Rachel for her contribution under the email thread "[existentialism] Pyramid Scheme" for reminding those on that thread that student learning must be the centerpiece of the instructional affairs department.

I would argue that the above goal and institutional student learning outcomes would put learning back at the center of the strategic plan.

Thus the six institutional student learning outcomes would become the objectives for the new goal one.

I have absolutely no standing to suggest that the college can or should or would go back to the board and seek a modification to goal one. I am not a member of planning council, I am only a single small voice with a single odd opinion. I cannot prove that I have any support for a modification of goal one, let alone that it should be along the lines I outline above. I realize this would throw goal one back to planning council for reconsideration. I only suggest that we could unify the instructional affairs department strategic and tactical plan around student learning by doing the above. And we would have a reasonable number of objectives to tackle: six.

I would ask members of curriculum and planning council to have a look at the spreadsheet - it provides a map for how program learning outcomes map up through institutional student learning outcomes to the "learning goal." Not included are the matrices that then connect program student learning outcomes to course level student learning outcomes, these exist for many programs either in the program evaluation or in other documentation.

In a side note of some interest to curriculum committee, the matrix tab cross-tabulates program student learning outcomes against the six categories. The result is that 52 program learning outcomes are in the knowledge category, 23 are in the skills category, eight in the analysis category, six each in communication and creativity, and three in the intellect category. Of course my assignments are open to discussion and revision, as are the categories themselves. As percentages the results would be 53% knowledge focus, 23% skills focus, 8% analysis focus, 6% communication, 6% creativity, and 3% focus on critical and independent thinking.

I am crazy enough to assert that this then is the first ever meta-assessment of these institutional learning outcomes. We are a knowledge focused institution with a secondary focus on skills. We do not place a significant emphasis at the program level, for example, on independent thought and critical thinking. This is the beauty of a grand unified theory: the structure of the theory itself contains useful information.2
Grand Unified Theory
The other attraction is that we are not building a whole new set of separate objectives that will also need assessing.

Again, I apologize and note that all of the above is solely my personal opinion. None of the above should be construed to be anything official whatsoever.

1 That note is available at:
2 In my mind's eye is an visualization of the whole theory spread out along a wall like some hybridization of Isaac Asimov's psychosocial theory and the lines and arrows charts of insanity of John Nash seen in "A Beautiful Mind."