Monday, March 29, 2010

Sources of Learning Outcomes

An excellent book by Driscoll and Wood (1) lists a number of sources for learning outcomes, opening up new ways for you to continually assess and improve your courses. In their book, they suggest the following:

1. Goals: Translating to Learning Outcomes. We should first articulate our goals and outcomes, because translating goals to outcomes is seen as a first step inn developing learning outcomes. Driscoll sees goals as broad nonspecific categories of learning, but which must be broken into smaller learning outcomes in order to be assessable. If we have a goal, what do you need to plan to do to meet that goal, and how would you demonstrate that you have met it? What pedagogy will help you achieve that goal? What evidence will you use to support that you have met that goal? We take our goals and translate them into learning outcomes that we- and students- can be clear in directing learning efforts. Driscoll also notes that articulating goals and translating them into learning outcomes is an opportunity for faculty to support the mission and values of the institution.

2. Professional and Disciplinary Associations. These may also be an important source of learning outcomes and should not be ignored. One reason is that these organizations may have developed outcomes which involve the use of experts within the organization, most of whom have discipline-specific expertise. This also can help harmonize with the accreditation process.

3. Community Sources. Community partners and others may be a source of learning goals of outcomes; that is, we need to be attentive to the reality of practice and its specific requirements, idiosyncrasies and challenges. A job analysis, such as was done by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (2), can provide significant information and direction to a chiropractic college curriculum. Ensuring that we have representation among test plan committees at NBCE is one way to ensure that we have information about the goals of the licensing board.

4. Faculty and Students. Driscoll states that faculty and students are an “important but often neglected “source of learning outcomes. Faculty members are, of course, best positioned and have the requisite knowledge to develop learning outcomes and translate goals into outcomes. They also have insight into process. But often faculty do not participate in development for fear their contributions may be ignored. Collaborative work may help to rectify this situation. Students are also a source of outcomes, and should input into process; they may have important ideas about their learning which should be disseminated.

This is a bit of a novel model for examining the development of learning outcomes, but one we might wish to investigate further and which may help you in moving forward in the future.

1. Driscoll A, Wood S. Developing outcomes-based assessment for learner-centered education: a faculty introduction. Sterling, VA; Stylus, 2007:54-60
2., accessed March 26, 2010

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