Good practice in assessment begins with learning goals – general statements that convey what students should KNOW or be able to DO at the end of a course or co-curricular activity, program, or degree. Clear articulation of learning goals can help to develop the ability of students to articulate what they have learned during their educational experience. Students should be fully aware of these expectations and how the curriculum and other activities are aligned to support the learning goals.

Develop learning goals by asking “What should students learn in this course or program? What should they know, do, or value? What are the fundamental ideas or abilities a student should have?”  You may need different learning goals for distinct student populations (e.g., non-majors, first-year students). The more complex expectations of learning goals can be “upacked” through the articulation of learning objectives that specify what students will demonstrate in the context of achieving the associated goal. Learning objectives provide flexibility for courses and programs to further identify the specific and varied ways in which they contribute to broader learning goals. These objectives can become the criteria on a rubric to rate student learning (e.g., exceeds expectations, meets expectations, does not meet expectations).

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Once learning goals are established, they should be mapped to the course- or program-level curriculum.