Steps 1-5

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Steps 1-2: Creating Mission Statements and Learning Outcomes

University level.  The WJU catalog publishes the University mission statement and learning goals by which we know we are successful in achieving our mission. Obviously, all programs are to support the University mission and learning goals.

Program level.  In similar fashion, each program or major is expected to develop a public, published mission statement of the program, which conveys the department’s philosophy (as it supports the University’s mission) and the learning outcomes by which the program knows it is achieving its vision (as it supports the University’s learning goals).

Each program’s task will not be to fulfill each outcome to the same degree, but, through the mission statement and the program outcomes, to (1) address the University mission and goals, (2) thoroughly articulate its goals within the context of student learning, and (3) address specific strategies for how the program attempts to achieve its goals.

Writing a program mission statement.  The program mission statement articulates how the program supports and fulfills the mission and goals of the broader University, within the context of its specific discipline, and offers a picture of the student at the time he or she completes the program.

Writing program learning outcomes.  Each degree program may develop as many outcome statements as deemed necessary, but be realistic and pragmatic.  What can you really accomplish?

Student learning outcomes are statements that identify, in measurable terms, what you want students who complete the program or major/minor to know (facts, information, knowledge), feel (dispositions, attitudes, opinions, preferences) and/or do (behavior, actions, skills), including faith integration – outcomes that focus on faith development and the ability to articulate Christian values.

Learning outcomes should be written with the following three considerations in mind.

  • Somehow measurable.  Let the following question haunt you as you write, “What evidence (quantitative or qualitative date appropriate to the discipline or area) is needed to tell me this outcome is achieved and how can I collect this evidence?”  Use ideas and words that promote answering this question.
  • Within reach.  Desired outcomes must be achievable, at an acceptable level, given available time and resources.  Ask the simple question: Is the outcome statement implying, requiring, or expecting something outside the department or program’s ability to actually deliver?
  • Realistic.  Avoid ethereal statements that warm your heart but fail to comply with the previous two guidelines.  This is very hard!

Be selective.  While other learning may take place, developing and focusing on 5-7 well conceived, assessable outcomes is sufficient in most cases.  Remember that in your assessment plan you will have to determine key performance indicators, or criteria for success, for the outcomes.

Click here for the template for Program Mission and Outcomes.


Step 3: Aligning Program Outcomes with University Learning Goals

In the Outcomes Map, the program student learning outcomes are correlated to the University learning goals.

Click here for the template for the Outcomes Alignment Map.


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Step 4: Curriculum Alignment

A Curriculum Alignment Matrix helps the program to determine the alignment of the academic courses or co-curricular programs/activities with their program learning outcomes in order to achieve a cohesive student learning experience.

A cohesive curriculum has the following characteristics:

  • Coherence
  • Synthesizing Experiences
  • Ongoing Practice of Learned Skills
  • Systematically Created Opportunities to Develop Increasing Sophistication and Apply What is Learned

On the matrix form, courses are listed and faculty decide for each course whether a program outcome(s) is Introduced  (introduction of concept(s)); Practiced (where concepts are practiced with increasing sophistication); Demonstrated (where student demonstrates mastery) and, if so, whether  there is a formal measurement of the demonstrated mastery; e.g., rubrics, external evaluations.

Click here for the Curriculum Alignment Matrix.

Click here for the Co-Curriculum Alignment Matrix.


Step 5: Overall Assessment Plan

In this chart, demonstrate how you will measure the success of each program learning outcome (PLO):

  • List the PLO
  • List the specific course(s) in which this learning outcome is measurably demonstrated.
  • What measures/indicators are used to determine that graduates have achieved the stated outcome.
  • What is program’s key performance indicator, or criteria for successful fulfillment of the outcome?
  • List the assessment schedule for each PLO

Consider the use of a capstone experience to capture summative evidence of PLO fulfillment.  Since this should primarily address your program outcomes and, secondarily, contribute to ULG assessment, you will likely use two different rubrics.

Click here for the Overall Assessment Plan template.