Santa Rosa Junior College logo Building on a Legacy of Excellence
home  > slo  > course
Course SLO Assessment

SLO Assessment Cycle at the Course Level – Connecting to Student Learning

How do departments meet the Academic Senate Goals? What are some examples of methods of assessment?
How can the assessment process be relevant and meaningful? How do we write or revise course Student Learning Outcomes statements?

SRJC has established Student Learning Outcomes for all courses, certificates, majors, Student Services programs, and for the institution itself. Assessment of student achievement of outcomes is the key to determining how well students are learning and how teaching and learning may be improved.

While SRJC faculty routinely use assessment results to inform their teaching and to evaluate students for grading, in response to accrediting agencies and the U.S. Department of Education, the college also posts formal documentation of the assessment of SLOs, including descriptions of how these results relate to teaching and learning. In Fall 2013 the Academic Senate approved the these assessment goals for 2014/2015:

  • 100% of initial course assessments will be completed and a systematic, ongoing cycle of assessment will be established;
  • 100% of all certificates and majors will be assessed as part of a broader systematic, ongoing cycle of assessment;
  • General Education student learning outcomes will be identified, aligned with institutional student learning outcomes, and approved by the Academic Senate.

What do these goals mean for faculty and academic departments?

  1. Department faculty must develop and communicate their 6-year course assessment plan, reflecting the ongoing cycle of assessment of courses and the relationship of these courses to the SLOs of certificates, majors, and pathways.

  2. Faculty members who teach courses designated for formal documentation according to the department plan are responsible for: determining the method of assessment for the SLO(s) that are up for assessment; completing the assessment according to the plan; submitting the SLO Assessment report form to the department chair; sharing the results and reflection with department members and, as appropriate, other faculty, staff, departments, and students. They may use the Word SLO Assessment Report form or the SharePoint site template for entering the assessment information and should complete the report shortly after the assessment semester is over.

  3. Departments may determine whether the assessment activity will involve several sections or just one as a sample, depending on the number of sections of the course, the number of faculty who teach it, and the number of students enrolled in a section. That is, assessment results from one large-lecture section may be adequate to represent the level of students achievement of SLOs, whereas a department might want to involve several sections for courses with under 30 students.

  4. According to the department plan, regular faculty participate as needed to meet the assessment goals for courses, certificates, and majors. Regular faculty may receive up to 6 hours of flex credit for leadership and participation in assessment. Part-time faculty are encouraged to participate with departmental support for embedded assessment. For courses that are taught only by part-time faculty, the chair or designated full-time faculty should work with those instructors to identify existing assessment tools (e.g., tests, projects, papers), support data collection, and make sure those instructors receive up to 3 hours flex credit for completing the assessment report.

  5. The department chair provides support for assessment through departmental presentations and discussion; helping to make recommended changes in curriculum, pedagogy, materials, etc.; planning for re-assessment; and acknowledging effective practices.

  6. Tracking of course assessments is officially recorded in both SharePoint and the PRPP (Program and Resource Planning Process documents). When possible, the department administrative assistant may be assigned to entering SLO reports into the SLO SharePoint site and managing internal records of assessment completion.

  7. Based on the results, the department may initiate reassessment in the following semester to demonstrate how changes in curriculum or teaching methodology would improve learning. Or, if results show that students are achieving at or above expected levels, the department may plan the next formal assessment as part of the 6-year cycle.

How can the assessment process be meaningful and improve teaching and learning?

Use “embedded assessment”

Often assessment occurs as part of the course’s regular activities – tests, projects, papers, or demonstrations of skills that are normally used for grading students. In addition to providing the information for grading, assessment results can provide a snapshot of how well students in general are learning. This kind of information may confirm effective practices or may suggest areas for improvement through changes in curriculum, materials, teaching methodology, sequence, or even the SLOs themselves.

Examples:

  • Final exams. These are especially effective when results for items related to specific SLOs are analyzed, discussed, and lead to conclusions about how well students are achieving in that particular area. For instance, a statistics course might determine how well students handle complex word problems versus those that are more computational. The results could either confirm effective instruction or suggest areas where changes in teaching or materials might improve students’ learning.
  • Projects. Many CTE and arts courses have a final project or performance that reflect the achievement of the course SLOs. The use of a rubric to grade students can also provide data about overall student strengths and weaknesses, and faculty could respond accordingly.
  • Comprehensive written assignments such as research papers, essays, or critiques. Most papers require application of the higher order thinking skills stated in the SLOs. Again, the use of a rubric for evaluating the writing can provide more specific information about students’ strengths and weaknesses to inform teaching.

“Closing the Loop”

When changes are initiated to address one or more SLOs, it’s logical to follow up with another assessment to determine whether the changes made a difference. The conclusions drawn from this second assessment may indicate that concerns have been addressed or that further changes are in order. Using results to determine the effect of changes, re-assessing, and deciding on the next step are often referred to as “closing the loop” – that is, completing one assessment cycle. Depending on the situation, the cycle may begin again immediately. Ongoing assessment is part of effective teaching because it can reveal patterns, successes, and new possibilities.

The SLO Assessment Loop

Methods of Assessment

The action verbs used in the SLO statements give a general indication of how students’ achievement of the outcome could be demonstrated. That is, sometimes critical thinking skills may need to be expressed orally or in writing, while other times, the application of skills has to actually happen and be observed. Often both forms of assessment may be involved.

It’s important to make sure that the method of assessment actually addresses the SLO itself.
Example:
If the SLO says that students will be able to “identify and discuss ethical issues in the profession,” an objective test alone would not be a wholly adequate form of assessment because students are not actually discussing their ideas.

The following includes types of assessment that might be used for some of the SLOs listed above.

SLO Possible Assessment Tools
English 1A: Develop a multi paragraph persuasive essay containing a thesis statement supported by details and evidence organized in unified, coherent, and adequately developed paragraphs. Essay assignment and/or essay test scored with a rubric
Dental Hygiene 82A: Correctly interpret symptoms and select appropriate intervention to manage patient fear, anxiety, and/or pain in a dental clinic setting. Observation of role-play scored with a rubric; objective test
Nutrition: Analyze a documented nutritional problem, determine a strategy to correct the problem, and write a draft nutritional policy addressing the broader scope of the problem. Essay test and/or written project
Organic Chemistry: Assess and recognize an audience in order to develop appropriate communications both orally and in writing that are sensitive to the audience's needs, values, and point of view. Observed role-play; speech or oral presentation; essay
Office Communications and Interpersonal Skills: Synthesize (on paper and in the laboratory) and purify a specified product from a list of given starting materials, while following common safety regulations and procedures. Written description and observed demonstration
ESL for Child Development Introduction to Early Childhood: Use English to evaluate the personal qualities of an effective early childhood educator. Essay test and/or oral presentation; objective test; interview report
Classical Music Appreciation: Describe and relate how the syntax and structure of Classical music has changed over time relative to cultural circumstances. Essay test or oral and instrumental presentation
Philosophy of Peace and Nonviolent Action: Form reasoned and well-informed judgments on current issues involving the development of peace and the nonviolent resolution of conflict both within and between individuals and social groups. Student essay response to current events; project; oral presentation

Writing Student Learning Outcomes for Courses

At this point, all courses at SRJC have the Student Learning Outcomes listed in the Course Outline of Record. The following basic guidelines are for faculty who are developing SLOs for new courses or revising SLOs of current courses.

Definition: A Student Learning Outcome is a statement of the knowledge, skills, abilities, or values students should acquire in a course. An SLO usually subsumes multiple objectives, allows for assessment, and anticipates the application of learning outside of the classroom or in future educational contexts.

The SLOs of a course are usually developed through collegial discussion among faculty who create, revise, and/or teach a course. When writing SLOs, it helps to envision exactly what the student would be able to do in the real world or the next level of the program after completion of the course.

Courses usually have one to five SLOs, depending on the length and depth of the course itself. SLO statements tend to be more global statements when compared to course objectives, which describe more specific skills or abilities. SLO statements also:

  • Refer to what students should be able to do after they have completed the course. In other words, they are not course assignments, and the statements do not include the method of assessment.
  • Use active verbs that reflect how the learning can be observed or measured with emphasis on higher levels of critical thinking. You can find lists of active verbs associated with the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains on the following linked pages:
    Benjamin Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains
    Anderson and Krathwohl’s Taxonomy 2000
  • Are supported by the content of the course, the kinds of assignments students complete, and appropriate methods of assessment.
  • Connect with the SLOs of any certificates or majors that the course is related to.

Read more about identifying and composing Student Learning Outcomes for courses on the More About Writing Course SLOs.

SLO Assessment Showcase, Resources, and Forms

Examples Resources Forms & Procedures