Linda Suskie

 A Common Sense Appr​oach to Assessment in Higher Education


Why are learning outcomes a good idea?

Posted on January 9, 2018 at 7:25 AM

Just before the holidays, the Council of Graduate Schools released Articulating Learning Outcomes in Higher Education. The title is a bit of misnomer; the paper focuses not on how to articulate learning outcomes but on why it’s a good idea to articulate learning outcomes and why it might be a good idea to have a learning outcome framework such as the Degree Qualifications Profile to articulate shared learning outcomes across doctoral programs.

What I found most useful about the paper was the strong case it makes for the value of articulating learning outcomes. It offers some reasons I hadn’t thought of before, and they apply to student learning at all higher education levels, not just doctoral education. If you work with someone who doesn't see the value of articulating learning outcomes, maybe this list will help.

Clearly defined learning outcomes can:

• Help students navigate important milestones by making implicit program expectations explicit, especially to first-generation students who may not know the “rules of the game.”

• Help prospective students weigh the costs and benefits of their educational investments.

• Help faculty prepare students more purposefully for a variety of career paths (at the doctoral level, for teaching as well as research careers).

• Help faculty ensure that students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need for an increasingly broad range of career options, which at the doctoral level may include government, non-profits, and startups as well as higher education and industry.

• Help faculty make program requirements and milestones more student-centered and intentional.

• Help faculty, programs, and institutions define the value of a degree or other credential and improve public understanding of that value.

• Put faculty, programs, and institutions in the driver’s seat, defining the characteristics of a successful graduate rather than having a definition imposed by another entity such as an accreditor or state agency.

Categories: Learning goals