Student Learning Outcomes

The success of academic programs—all degrees, all certificates and certain student support programs–are measured through the use of student learning outcomes.

Simply stated, a student learning outcome should indicate what a student will be able to do at the end of a course of study that she or he couldn’t do at the beginning of that course of study.  It is the knowledge, skills, and abilities that a student has attained at the end (or as a result) of his or her engagement in a particular set of higher education experiences.  It should not describe a process.

Student learning outcomes must also be very specific and measurable whose attainment can be assessed after undertaking a set of education experiences.

FSU has over 1800 student learning outcomes that are measured annually.  Other than providing valuable information to faculty, these reviews satisfy two assessment requirements.  They are our university-wide accreditation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools—Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and the requirement for student learning outcomes for all bachelors degrees from the Florida Board of Governors (BOG).  We submit a report to the BOG annually and to SACSCOC every five years.  For SACSCOC, we provide three years of data.

The assessment process is easily completed by answering 4 questions:

  1. What do you want? (outcome)
  2. How will you measure progress? (assessment)
  3. What do you have? (results)
  4. How do you get there from here? (action plan and improvements)

Information from all over campus is stored in the Institutional Effectiveness Portal.  Its link is

Student learning outcomes are the first step in our assessment process.  The following explains in detail what we do to comply with accreditation and BOG requirements.

Writing a student learning outcome

  • What, specific behaviors or skills do you wish to assess?

The definition of a student learning outcome should include the following:

  • Who is responsible for conducting the activities you include in your outcome;
  • What specifically will be the measurable results of your activities;
  • When do you expect the attainment of your outcome; and
  • Where will the program activities occur which will assist you in meeting your outcome.

Good examples:

Psychology Department:

Upon completion of the course of instruction, the student will be able to demonstrate competency in basic research design and analysis, including how to conduct library research and interpret the results of statistical tests, as well as knowledge of research ethics, research design, basic statistical procedures (e.g., t-test, descriptive statistics, ANOVA), correlational research and experimental research.

 Art Department:

Upon completion of the course of instruction, the student will be able to demonstrate advanced levels of technical skills with tools and processes in his or her area of media concentration.

Humanities Department:

The student will be able to produce a capstone paper addressing the major paradigm shifts of Classical Antiquity from Early Greek Culture to the late Middle ages. This paper is evaluated by the course instructor who assesses the students’ knowledge of the major conceptual themes of the cultural period under study as represented in the arts, literature, history, religion and philosophy of Classical Antiquity. This will be assessed upon completion of the core course of instruction.

What comprises a good assessment?

  • How do you know that progress is or is not being made?

In order to meet expectations by accrediting bodies, it is necessary to state clearly how you will assess progress in meeting student learning and program outcomes. It is necessary to record precisely what you will measure to establish performance, how the information will be collected, from whom it will be gathered, when it will be collected, and who will be responsible for collecting the information. It must also state the specific expectation or level of performance (standard) that the program has for establishing that the student learning has been successful. These standards are the point of comparison against which the actual evidence of student learning will be judged once it is collected.

In your most skeptical mood, what sort of evidence would convince you that progress is being made toward the goal?

The assessment and evaluation process statement identifies the:

  • Specific behaviors you are looking for as evidence of the learning outcome and indicate what information you will seek;
  • Standard or criterion against which the outcome will be judged successful;
  • Measure and method by which the assessment will occur;
  • Validity of the measure and method used in the assessment;
  • Time frame indicates when the assessment will occur;
  • Responsibility indicates who is to conduct or store the assessment; and
  • Conditions in which the assessment will occur and the reasons why the specific conditions were chosen.

Good examples:

Psychology Department:

This will result in 85% of the students scoring 70% or better as determined by departmental exam.  EXP 3000, Approaches to the Study of Behavior, is required of all psychology majors. By learning about research methods and design in psychology, students will be able to read the literature and thereby keep up with an ever-changing knowledge base.

All students enrolled in EXP 3000 will be given a multiple choice exam at the end of the semester to assess their knowledge of research design and analysis. The exam will be constructed by faculty who teach EXP 3000 and reviewed by the Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies. Each semester, a standard item analysis will be conducted to identify individual items that need to be replaced and/or reworded. 

Art Department:

This will result in 85% of the students scoring satisfactory or better as determined by a formal portfolio  review by at least five faculty members and the BFA coordinator. Mastery in technical skill development is judged by experienced faculty artists in each area (e.g., sculpture, painting, photography) based on criteria such as the student’s technical skill in the innovative uses of tools and equipment and various processes associated with a variety of media, particularly those within their area of concentration.  The portfolio review will occur in the senior year of bachelor’s of art students. 

Humanities Department:

This will result in 90% of the students scoring 70% or better, as determined by the course instructor.

The capstone paper is evaluated based on the student’s ability to:

  1. Explain the characteristics of the cultural period;
  2. Analyze the major debates and paradigm shifts of the cultural period;
  3. Assess main visual, written and musical texts of the period in an integrated fashion;
  4. Explain the ideas of distinguished scholars in the field and apply them to the analysis of texts.

Method(s): Written Report or Essay. The assessment of the capstone paper will be a rubric developed by faculty within the department.  The capstone paper will be given in a core course taken in the senior year.

Meteorology Department:

This will result in 25% increase in students and a long-term increase in student/faculty research productivity and program recognition as evidenced by a departmental assessment that will compare the number of new students, the average grade point average and scores on the graduate record examination to the averages of the respective quantities from the previous 5 years.

The Meteorology Department undergraduate coordinator will also examine the number of theses completed, peer reviewed publications and research grants and ranking by the National Academy of Sciences.

A secondary measure is the ratio of the number of matriculating student assistants to the number of assistantships sought as compared to the average statistic over the past five years. Since the number of graduate assistantships that might be sought from year-to-year may vary, it is important to evaluate the numbers relative to the number of people sought.

Hospitality Administration Department:

By graduation, approximately 80% of students qualified to graduate will have gained a full-time job with a respective segment of the hospitality industry. Each graduating senior will provide to the Dedman School of Hospitality the name of company, position, starting date, and when possible, starting salary of their employment situation. This information will be collected by the head of undergraduate studies within the department.  The final report, along with analysis, will be provided to the Department Chair for review and determination of the best course of action regarding improvements or action plans which will demonstrate continuous improvement.

Note:  The type of data collected in each assessment statement is determined by the outcome associated with that statement.  For example, student learning outcomes may require data collected from faculty within a Department; other student learning outcomes may require data on the performance of our students on a state or national exam.

What must be included in the results and analysis statement?

(This is updated annually.)

The importance of analysis in the Institutional Effectiveness process cannot be overstated. Please remember that your results should inform decisions that lead to continuous improvement of your program. It forms the link between your data and your action plan and must lead the reader from one to the other.

  • Did you or did you not make progress toward your goal?

The results statement should contain enough detail to corroborate your assessment. It is not enough to collect information. It must also be analyzed. In particular, it must be considered against the standards you have set. Analysis should be used to identify ways in which performance could be improved or, if needed, additional examinations conducted.

Generally, your analysis should state its most valuable finding. It should attempt to explain any deviation from the established standards. It might also report other insights that you have uncovered. It should indicate how such findings might or will be used in making improvements or how it leads to further analysis. It may want to highlight areas of success in addition to areas needing improvement.  Importantly, you must not forget to provide some evaluation of the method you used and its continuing status as a tool for assessment of outcomes.

The results statement should address the following requirements:

  • Results should be summarized and related to the content of the outcome;
  • Relationship to Standard should be specifically noted;
  • Analysis includes more than reporting of results. It should include the results of internal discussions regarding the data and which changes could be made to improve the program;
  • Deviation from Standard clearly indicates to the reader or reviewer whether or not the standard was met;
  • Responsibility for collection of the data at the correct time from all data sources;
  • Insights Uncovered include findings from the analysis of your data and will likely be your most significant finding; and
  • Evaluation of assessment method to ensure it is providing the information needed.

The file bank associated with each outcome in the IE portal allows you to upload copies of the assessments you used, including examination items, rubrics, judging criteria. It also lets you store copies of results and analyses that you perform. This is the documentation required by accrediting bodies. We encourage you to include background information into the file bank if it is available and provides additional pertinent information.

Considerations of privacy

Under state and federal law, the information that can be legally included in the portal is rigorously restricted. Federal and state privacy laws protect student educational records. A university found in violation is subject to severe penalties, including the loss of federal funding. You must be exceptionally careful about the information you submit for entry into the Institutional Effectiveness Portal.

When in doubt, do not enter or upload information that provides information on specific students.

What must be present in an acceptable improvements made/action plan description?

(This is also updated annually based upon the analysis of results.)

  • What are you going to do to improve learning or the program? Alternately, what are you going to do to keep your department or program operating at its high level? Who is responsible?

The results and analysis statement should spur some action to continue improvement. Such improvements might include the need to make changes in the student learning or program outcomes. More typically, they will include changes ranging from curricula refinements to proposed new educational tracks to enhancements in support services. They may also require new or modified assessment practices or special attention by the program faculty. Please remember if your program or students are already performing at a high level, you should state how you expect to retain that level of performance. Your statements will provide a record over time of your efforts to improve the learning experiences of students and programs. They should be documented carefully and fully. Our record of institutional effectiveness efforts for SACS must show continuous improvement. If your prospective improvements or action plan requires additional resources, their potential budget impact should be noted.

  • Improvement envisioned should be specifically stated;
  • Time Frame should be indicated within which the improvement will be implemented;
  • Responsibility will identify who should ensure implementation or planning for the improvement is complete (or on schedule);
  • Actions to retain results are required even if you are already performing at a high level;
  • Resources should be identified if necessary; and
  • Budgetary Implications should be noted if warranted.

Once completed, these submissions are reviewed by the person entering the information, the Department Chair, the Dean or designee and the Provost’s Office.