DEFINING MISSION, OBJECTIVES AND LEARNING OUTCOMES

Defining the Mission Statement

The mission statement of the department or unit defines, in one or two paragraphs, its goals, values and aspirations as related to the university vision and strategic goals. It should also indicate the most important functions of the department/unit.

Defining Unit Objectives

Objectives are statements of ways in which a unit aims to achieve its mission, how processes should work, and what their optimal result should be. Objectives should be measurable and attainable.

As a general best practice rule, whenever the unit is responsible for producing specific KPIs, deliverables, or milestones to measure specific Core Initiatives of the Strategic Plan Dashboard, the unit should define objectives that are aligned directly with those Core Initiatives and use the same KPIs, deliverables, or milestones to measure progress toward their objective.

Defining Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes are statements of the knowledge, skills and abilities individual students should possess and can demonstrate upon completion of a learning experience or sequence of learning experiences. They should be measurable, attainable within the context of the learning unit (program, course, specific activity) and should contribute to the mission of the department.

You should develop 3-5 learning outcomes for your program. MSCHE provides guidelines in chapter 2 of the handbook on Student Learning Assessment: Options and Resources (2nd Edition, 2007).  An alternative guide to developing learning outcomes is provided by the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment. The NILOA has several easy to use resources on the subject of drafting learning outcomes and quite a few are intended for neophytes. Their website includes a “how to” section for drafting Learning outcomes.

Assessment Methodologies for Learning Outcomes

Describe how a learning outcome has been (or will be) assessed. The emphasis is on producing direct evidence such as student artifacts, research papers, responses to tests.

Examples of direct evidence (taken from the list of methods for the assessment of student learning recommended on the MSCHE web site):

  • Scoring of a certain test or presentation using a rubric
  • Portfolios of student work evaluated with a rubric
  • Scores on locally-designed multiple choice and/or essay tests such as final examinations in key courses, qualifying examinations, and comprehensive examinations, accompanied by test “blueprints” describing what the tests assess

Indirect evidence, such as students' perceptions of their learning and the educational environment, may also be used. Examples of indirect evidence (taken from the list of methods for the assessment of student learning recommended on the MSCHE web site:

  • Student satisfaction, alumni, and employer surveys
  • Course grades
  • Assignment grades, if not accompanied by a rubric or scoring guide

NOTE: Indirect methods alone do not provide adequate information about student learning outcomes.

Dashboards

Department chairs have access to dashboards displaying relevant academic indicators about student numbers, classes, faculty, etc.

  • Personal dashboards (accessible to individuals only) collecting information about people’s activities over time; faculty members, for example, may see the courses they have taught, the papers they have published, the committees they have served on, the students they have advised, the grades they have given as against institutional averages, the evaluation of their courses, etc.
  • Academic departments’ dashboards collecting aggregate information about students and professors in the department, as well as, for example, about courses and grades.
  • Administrative units’ dashboards collecting information relevant to the specific unit; for example, the dashboard of the Internship Office may contain information about students, employers, and internships.
  • Leadership Team dashboard containing aggregate information about all aspects of University activities, processes, and stakeholders.
  • Institutional dashboard containing a selection of the information available in the Leadership Team’s dashboard and accessible to everyone.

The creation of still other dashboards will also be considered, so as to make available relevant information to students (both personal and for various associations and student governance groups), parents, prospective students and their parents, and the Board of Trustees.

Submitted assessment reports