Step 1: Get ready

Establish timeline

One effective strategy is to plan backwards from your next scheduled Program Review cycle. If you collect and analyze evidence of student learning related to one or two Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) each academic year, you will have more information to include in your self-study.

Review prior activity

If at all possible, don't start from scratch! Review the write-ups of previous assessment cycles to identify potential focus areas for the inquiry.

Grab your assessment buddies

In order to produce valid, actionable, and meaningful information, program outcomes assessment is most effective when several (if not all) faculty participate in the process. While each program will determine its own best configuration, consider the following suggestions for sharing the responsibilities:

  • Establish a working group of colleagues who are willing to coordinate, implement, and report the results of program assessment.
  • To support sustainability, consider asking people to serve two-to-three year overlapping terms.
  • In small programs, it may make sense for all faculty to participate in program assessment every year; in larger departments, perhaps a sub-group of faculty rotate responsibility.

Step 2: Articulate goals for student learning

SHORTCUT: Check existing Program Learning Outcomes for currency and relevancy. If they still make sense, move to Step 3.

"Begin with the end in mind."

What do you want your students to know, value, and be able to demonstrate at the end of a course and/or degree program?

What do you expect new members of your disciplinary community to know, value, and be able to demonstrate?

What should UC Davis students be able to demonstrate upon completion of their undergraduate degree?

TIPS for crafting effective outcomes statements for programs and courses

Effective outcomes statements:

  • emphasize what students do, rather than what the course covers;
  • rely on action verbs that describe--in observable terms--what students will be able to do; and
  • reflect intentional alignment with campus goals for student learning.
Image of olive tree represents program level assessment

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Articulate in measurable terms what students should know and be able to demonstrate as a result of and at the conclusion of an academic or co-curricular program.
  • Indicate, as appropriate, alignment to professional standards.
  • Invite on-going conversations among faculty about the program’s goals and values.
  • Foster students’ metacognitive awareness about their own learning within and across the program.
Image of olive branch represents course level assessment

Course Learning Outcomes

  • Articulate in measurable terms what students should know and be able to demonstrate as a result of and at the conclusion of a course.
  • Indicate, as appropriate, alignment between course and program learning outcomes.
  • Communicate course goals explicitly.
  • Foster transfer of responsibility for learning from faculty to students.
Developing Learning Outcomes

Check your Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

  • Do the PLOs reflect the higher order thinking skills we expect of UC Davis graduates?
  • Do the PLOs describe what a new member of your disciplinary community will know, do, and value?

 For help developing or refining PLOs, please see this Field Note.

Step 3: Create / revise curriculum matrix

Alignment describes the intentional interrelatedness of course, program, general education, and campuswide learning outcomes. At the program level, alignment represents the ideal cohesive relationship between curriculum and outcomes, which provides appropriately sequenced opportunities for students to develop mastery. For information about how to create assignments or instructional activities that are aligned with Bloom's Revised Taxonomy, see this Field Note

Determining the degree of alignment is especially important, especially as program curricula evolve through the addition or deletion of courses. The analytic process during which faculty examine the alignment between program learning outcomes and curricula is often called curriculum mapping; its end product is usually referred to as a curriculum matrix.

A curriculum matrix

  • Provides a starting point for communication about where learning does and should occur in the curriculum.
  • Identifies courses useful for embedded assessment.
  • Highlights sequential nature of learning; facilitates increasing sophistication and ability to apply knowledge, skills, and/or dispositions over time.
  • Ensures that students have equitable opportunities to achieve the program’s intended outcomes.
  • Identifies when the LOs are Introduced, Practiced, or Demonstrated.
Sample Curriculum Matrix
Course # 1 2A 8 10 50 97 102 135 152 188 197
PLOs Demonstrate understanding of fundamental theories and skills I P P P D
Apply concepts and skills to solve challenging problems I P D
Collect, analyze, and interpret data I P P D
Organize and present information in multiple forms I P P P D
Work collaboratively to solve complex problems I P P D