Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are a part of the new 2002 Accreditation Standards for the California Community Colleges. The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) embeds outcomes and assessments into every standard of institutional responsibility. (http://www.accjc.org/Actions_institutions.htm) Actions by these accrediting entities make clear that an institution “can not be accredited without thoughtfully addressing and using outcomes assessments in every course, program and student service”. (Academic Senate for the CCC, 2007) In addition the assessment outcomes should drive college budget decisions, address student needs, and ultimately improve student learning at our college.
The purpose of the accreditation self-study is to promote institution-wide dialogue during a process of evaluation and planning with the goal to improve institutional effectiveness. Beginning in 2003 our college staff began dialogue to build awareness of the four new Accreditation Standards. This restructuring included the requirement to implement SLOs college-wide for courses, student services, and institutional programs.
Faculty have primary responsibility for development of curriculum and instruction at community colleges. The Course Outline of Record (COR) is developed and reviewed regularly by faculty for every college course offered. These are public record and can be viewed in CurricUNET (http://www.curricunet.com/Southwestern/). The COR identifies the course description, objectives to be taught, core content to be covered in all sections, method of evaluation, examples of assignments, instructional methodology, and required text(s) and materials. Faculty are required to develop two hours of meaningful assignments in reading, homework, and study for every hour spent in class.
Academic Program Review
Accreditation requires Academic Program Review once every six years. Academic Program Review formally occurs at Southwestern College on a shorter three-year cycle In addition, each year faculty review their SLOs using the program review Summary Work Plan as a guide. This annual development and review of SLOs allows faculty to monitor student progress and perform ongoing course and program development. The program review process documents the program’s history, current outcomes by faculty and students, and identifies an explicit plan for continued development and improvement. Thus curriculum development, instruction, Academic Program Review, and SLOs are all inter-related.
Institutional SLOs (Formerly known as Core Competencies)
Our SLOs are all based in four Institutional SLO skill areas that our college staff identified as the critical skills for students to develop during their studies here. The Institutional SLOs are the building blocks of our SLOs. The goal is for our students to be competent in these areas when they move on. The Institutional SLO skills include effective 1) Communication, 2) Thinking and Reasoning, 3) Information Competency, and 4) Global Awareness. (Institutional SLO Link Here)
Student Learning Outcomes
Our college faculty develop course outlines that detail what will be taught and how students will be evaluated during a course. SLOs provide a clear statement of outcomes for students after their active participation in a course of program of study. Attainment of outcomes is dependent on student engagement in instruction, completion of learning activities, study of course material, and successful completion of assessment measures. Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) identify what students should be able to do at the end of their course experience after their participation. Assessing student learning is not a new requirement; we have always done this. What is new is that ongoing communication between fulltime/part-time discipline faculty about student progress will include cyclical review of course assessment data for program improvement. In addition faculty will communicate our SLOs directly to our students from the beginning of class so they can be full partners in the learning process.
Our SLO Cycle
The development and review of student outcomes occurs on a regular basis as a fluid cycle. The SLO cycle includes three steps. First the faculty work together to identify the outcomes they want students to be able to do at the end of a course or program. Next the faculty implement the SLOs, measure the outcomes, and then assess students’ learning. The last step is to assess the SLOs use the results to make decisions about the effectiveness of the curriculum and instruction.
Our goal is to realize sustainable quality improvement to our curriculum and instruction using feedback from SLOs and the Academic Program Review process. To accomplish this we make our course and program SLOs known to our students. Our students understand what will be taught, how they will be evaluated, and they will be clear on what tangible outcomes they are working to develop during their experiences at our college. We evaluate our students’ progress by course and program.
SLOs by Course
Faculty teaching every course taught at Southwestern College have identified the critical and essential outcomes they work to support all semester. These can be found by a search by course in CurricUNET. (http://www.curricunet.com/Southwestern/)
Students benefit by better understanding the anticipated outcomes and then working with faculty to develop those explicit skills. Students improve their own self-insight about their academic growth, are then better at monitoring their own progress during the course, and develop highly refined problem solving and coping mechanisms for the future.
SLOs by Program
Our Program SLOs identify what the faculty teaching in a program want students to be able to do upon completion of their program. A student’s program goal may include a certificate, degree, and/or transfer, or to update job skills. The program SLO will be presented during all courses that may be taken for completion of a certificate, degree, and/or for transfer. Program SLOs will be assessed during the program courses to evaluated progress in attainment of the outcome. Program SLOs can be found by a search by program in CurricUNET. ( http://www.curricunet.com/Southwestern/ )