Student Learning Outcomes: Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is the program assessment of student learning necessary?
- To assess the extent to which all UNC Charlotte students have acquired general education and discipline-specific knowledge, skills, and abilities;
- To help academic departments identify changes that are needed to improve future student learning; and
- To evidence student learning to UNC Charlotte’s regional accreditor (SACSCOC) and professional accreditors.
2. Must I measure each outcome every year?
No, academic departments may assess half of their student learning outcomes (SLOs) one year and the other half the following year. However, a detailed assessment plan and schedule for the subsequent year must be provided in the first year. Please contact the Office of Assessment and Accreditation to discuss.
3. What are the minimum and recommended number of SLOs?
- Undergraduate degree programs: A minimum of 3 SLOs to include 1 SLO for written communication, 1 SLO for oral communication, 1 SLO for critical thinking, and 1 discipline-specific SLO are required; 4-5 SLOs are recommended to allow for 2-3 discipline-specific SLOs. One additional SLO is necessary for each concentration in a degree program.
- Graduate degree programs: A minimum of 2 discipline-specific SLOs are required but 3-4 discipline-specific SLOs are recommended. One additional SLO is necessary for each concentration in the degree program.
- Undergraduate and graduate certificate programs: A minimum of 1 discipline-specific SLO is required; 2-3 discipline-specific SLOs are recommended. If the certificate program is associated with a degree program, SLOs may be repeated.
- Concentrations: A minimum of 1 discipline-specific SLO is required but 2-3 SLOs are recommended.
4. Can the department change its SLOs assessment plan?
Absolutely! SLO assessment plans and accompanying rubrics are living documents that academic departments are encouraged to review and improve upon annually.
5. Can I use multiple measures for one outcome?
Yes, multiple measures for each outcome are encouraged. At least one direct measure (e.g., paper, exam, homework or presentation that provides evidence of mastery) is required.
6. Can I use only indirect measures?
No, since indirect measures do not require the demonstration of knowledge, skills, or ability, a minimum of one direct measure of the student learning outcome is required.
7. Can I conduct formative and summative assessments?
Yes, formative assessment is strongly encouraged! Formative assessments measure mastery early in an educational program (or course) and allow pedagogical or curricular changes to improve current students’ learning. With summative assessments, students are not assessed until the end of an educational program (or course). Summative assessments are useful in identifying pedagogical or curricular changes needed to improve the learning of future students.
8. Why should a department hold an annual assessment meeting?
The purpose of the meeting is to review all sources of assessment data and identify curricular, pedagogical, or assessment changes. Academic departments should hold annual assessment meetings early in the spring semester so they can plan and document changes to be implemented the following academic year and discuss the impact of previous changes on student learning.
9. What is the difference between analytic and holistic rubrics?
Analytic rubrics contain a scale with multiple performance levels (e.g., Needs Improvement, Good, Exemplary) and cell descriptors. The cell descriptors describe each level of performance for each evaluation criterion. A holistic rubric contains a single scale with all criteria to be included in the evaluation being considered together (e.g., clarity, organization, and mechanics). With a holistic rubric the rater assigns a single score based on an overall judgment of the student work. For SLO purposes, the use of analytic rubrics is strongly encouraged.
10. What if the department has met its Performance Outcomes every year for 3 years?
Performance Outcomes identify the level of expected performance and the percentage of majors expected to achieve that level. Most departments set initial Performance Outcomes at about 80% which leaves plenty of room for improvement. Departments should continue to increase Performance Outcomes until 90% or more of their majors meet the expected level of mastery. After 3 years in which 90% or more of students meet a Performance Outcome, academic departments should either measure the SLO in another assignment, setting, or class, or begin to measure a different SLO.
11. How can the Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan and Report be used for both accountability and improvement purposes?
The Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan and Report template was designed in 2010 with dual purposes in mind. The primary purpose is to document plans for assessing student learning and to encourage the use of assessment findings for improvements. The secondary purpose of the template is to document evidence of UNC Charlotte’s compliance with SACS Standard 8.2a (Student outcomes: educational programs) and 8.2b (Student outcomes: general education). The template contains all of the information needed by SACSCOC to determine compliance.