What are Student Learning Outcomes?
- Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are statements which specify what knowledge and skills a student should possess at the end of a course, program, and/or degree.
- Outcomes are the end result, or what you want the student to be able to demonstrate that they know upon completion of the program. They are not statements of what the student will do or be taught in the course; those are course objectives.
- SLOs can be found at the institutional (UC Hastings), program (J.D./LL.M./MSL), and course levels.
- They should be specific, observable, and measurable.
- They should be phrased as active verbs.
- Outcomes assessment consists of the variety of methods used by the institution to assess whether or not the student has acquired the stated SLOs.
- Assessment is an important function in the process. It provides feedback to the institution about how well things are working or what needs to be improved. This enables the institution to evaluate programs and make changes as needed.
- There are two types of assessment: formative and summative.
- Formative assessment is a method of assessment that provides feedback to the student about their strengths and weaknesses as far as meeting the student learning outcomes. These come throughout the class or time of study at the institution so as to provide the student with a chance to assess and adjust their learning accordingly.
- Summative assessment is a method of assessment that comes at the end of the course or program which usually gauges a student in comparison to other students.
- Assessment methods should have reliability and validity.
Professor David Takacs has created a PowerPoint explaining Outcomes Based Education. To download and view the PowerPoint, click here.
Articles on Crafting Learning Outcomes:
- Stanford University, Creating Learning Outcomes.
- This document is specifically talking about designing program learning outcomes; however, it can be equally helpful for designing course learning outcomes. Page 12 is especially useful and provides a list of "concrete action verbs" as samples to use when writing your learning outcomes. It also provides sample learning outcomes.
- University of Connecticut, How to Write Program Objectives/Outcomes.
- This document clarifies how learning outcomes and goals/objectives are different. It breaks down the language that should be used in drafting an outcome and provides Poor/Better/Best examples in order to show the best methods for writing outcomes.
Sample Syllabi with Student Learning Outcomes:
Note: These are just samples to show how professors have written learning outcomes for their particular courses. You are cautioned against drafting your course outcomes modeled after these as they have not all been evaluated for quality. Rather, when drafting your outcomes, it is recommended that you use one of the Articles on Crafting Learning Outcomes.
- Mary Atkinson, University of Huddersfield The Law School LLB (Honours) course on Family Law.
- This syllabus is very good. Not only does it do a good job of writing clear, specific outcomes that can be easily tested, but it also provides assessment methods and performance indicators.
- Eric H. Hines, University of Montana, International Law & Organizations Syllabus.
- Gerry Hess, Gonzaga University School of Law, Civil Procedure I Syllabus.
- Please note that what are called "goals" on this syllabus actually are learning outcomes.
- Yorktown University, The U.S. Constitution Syllabus.
- Carl B Kerrick, Lewis-Clark State College, Criminal Law & Procedure Syllabus.
- Lucinda Johnson, Hamline University School of Law, Health Law Organization and Finance Syllabus.
- Tom I. Romero II, Hamline University School of Law, Property Syllabus.
- Jenni Parrish, University of California Hastings College of the Law, Legal History of Immigrant Groups in the United States Syllabus.
Books and Articles on Assessment and Student Learning Outcomes
- Alexander W. Astin et al., Am. Ass’n of Higher Educ. & Accredit., Nine Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning, available at http://ipr.sc.edu/effectiveness/toolbox/principles.htm. -The American Association of Higher Education and Accreditation came up with nine principles for assessment. The principles cover topics such as why it is important to assess and recommended assessment methods.
- Alison Bone, Ensuring Successful Assessment (Roger Burridge & Tracey Varnava eds., National Centre for Legal Education) (1999). -The book covers the importance of assessment, assessment types, and developing assessment methods. Back to Top
- Div. of Student Affairs, Boston College, Assessment Handbook (2011-2012), available at http://www.bc.edu/content/dam/files/offices/vpsa/pdf/Handbook2011.pdf. -Explains Boon’s Taxonomy and tiers of verbs and skills to learn. Also explains two methods of writing learning outcomes: SWiBAT (Students Will Be Able To) and ABCD (Audience, Behavior, Condition, Degree) (p. 11).
- Div. of Student Affairs, Indiana State Univ., Div. Assessment Master Plan and Assessment Guide, (Office of Assessment) (2006) available at http://www.indstate.edu/studentaffairsresearch/MasterAssessmentPlan.pdf. -This document discusses the conditions under which assessment works best as well as provides suggestions on how to design quality student learning outcomes and assessment planning.
- Grant Wiggins & Jay McTighe, Understanding by Design (Ass’n for Supervision & Curriculum Dev. expanded 2d ed. 2005). -This book is available in the Library. It explains the process called “Understanding by Design,” which includes methods of curriculum planning based on a process of looking “backward.” The authors have three stages of backward design: identifying desired results, determining acceptable evidence, and planning learning experiences (pp. 17-22). The book provides a template with design questions with an explanation of the suggested concepts (pp. 22-28). One of the main themes is the concept of “understanding,” and how to identify and teach to understanding.
- Gregory S. Munro, Integrating Theory and Practice in a Competency-Based Curriculum: Academic Planning at the University of Montana School of Law, 52 Mont. L. Rev. 345 (1991). -The article covers “competency-based curriculum” and its process of development at the University of Montana School of Law. The program identifies the characteristics of a “competent beginning lawyer” (p. 350), how to implement curriculum that emphasizes those competencies, and problems that may arise.
- Gregory S. Munro, Outcomes Assessment for Law Schools (Institute for Law School Teaching) (2000). -The author writes about what assessment is, why it is important, how to do it, and how to overcome obstacle when implementing it in law school. As a framework, the author refers to the implementation process of outcomes based assessment at University of Montana School of Law. This book is probably one of the more detailed in explaining assessment and its importance and implementation in law school specifically. Back to Top
- Janet W. Fisher, Putting Students at the Center of Legal Education: How an Emphasis on Outcome Measures in the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools Might Transform the Educational Experience of Law Students, in 10-58 Suffolk U. L. Sch. Legal Studies Research Paper Series 225 (2011). -This article provides information on designing educational outcomes, creating curriculum maps that align the program and the outcomes, and using assessment data to evaluate the process. Page 235 gives sample legal research skills outcomes. It also gives examples using a Property course (pp. 236, 238-242).
- Lori A. Roberts, Assessing Ourselves: Confirming Assumptions and Improving Student Learning by Efficiently and Fearlessly Assessing Student Learning Outcomes, 1 (2010), available at http://works.bepress.com/lori_roberts/1/. -This article covers the ABA’s proposed accreditation standards and the effect they will have on the use of learning outcomes in law schools. The author also discusses challenges for adopting learning outcomes in law school, as well as the justifications and motivating factors for adopting them. Pages 7-16 discuss the justifications for the ABA adopting outcomes based assessment, which is useful for understanding how and why UC Hastings will be ahead of the ABA standards by adopting these early through WASC. This article also tries to address faculty concerns about assessment (pp. 16-23), and although it only does it briefly, it is a good place to begin for those with concerns.
- Marilee J. Bresciani, Implementing Outcomes-Based Assessment of Student Learning, available at http://interwork.sdsu.edu/elip/consultation/presentations/implement_assmt_stu_learning.pdf. -Includes the “typical components of an assessment plan” and examples of outcomes.
- Marilee J. Bresciani, Writing Measurable and Meaningful Outcomes. -Discusses the components of a good learning outcome and provides a few examples of how to write them.
- Rogelio Lasso, Is Our Students Learning?: Using Assessments to Measure and Improve Law School Learning, 1 (2010), available at http://works.bepress.com/rogelio_lasso/1/. -This article is helpful with understanding what assessments are and the different types of assessments (pp. 3-6). It also discusses shortcomings of current law school assessment methods (pp. 11-13) and recommended assessment methods (pp. 13-32). It provides some sample assessments on pages 27 and 38-47, many of which faculty at UC Hastings will find they already do.
- Roy Stuckey et al., Best Practices For Legal Education: A Vision and a Road Map (Clinical Legal Education Association) (2007). -This book discusses in depth the best practices for legal education. However, especially useful is Chapter 7: Best Practices for Assessing Student Learning (p. 175) which explains the importance of assessment (p. 175), shortcomings of current assessment methods (pp. 176-78), and recommended “best practices” (pp. 178-97). Sample assessment methods can be found on pages 192-94, 206-09.
- Michael Hunter Schwartz, Sophie Sparrow, & Gerald Hess, Teaching Law by Design: Engaging Students from the Syllabus to the Final Exam (2009).
- Donald J. Kochan, "Learning" Research and Legal Education: A Brief Overview and Selected Bibliographical Survey, 40 Sw. L. Rev. 449 (2010-11).
- Howard E. Katz & Kevin Francis O'Neil, Strategies and Techniques of Law School Teaching: A Primer for New (and Not so New) Professors (2009).