Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) at College of San Mateo - Faculty Toolkit: Summary
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
Faculty Toolkit: Summary

What are SLOs?

These are simple, declarative sentences identifying the "knowledge, skills and abilities" that a student should be able to demonstrate when leaving a course, program or service. 

How many SLOs should each course have?

There's no right answer here. Some courses have two; some have twelve. Do what makes sense.

However, bear in mind that unlike course objectives, student learning outcomes need to be regularly assessed, so do not pile on the work unnecessarily. In general, the outcomes for most courses and programs can be expressed in two to five separate statements.

What should they look like?

Keep them simple, clear and assessable. Avoid cluttering sentences with lots of examples. Stick to plain statements.

What's the difference between SLOs and course objectives?

SLOs must be assessable. If the course objectives describe skills that you can measure or observe, then your course objectives and SLOs can be identical. Some faculty use the two categories to make some useful distinctions: summarizing several specific objectives into one SLO, for instance, or using SLOs to state concrete observable abilities, while the objectives describe something more aspirational.

How does my course connect to program and/or GE SLOs?

A course of study leading to a degree or certificate has Program SLOs. Our General Education curriculum also has GE SLOs. These are published on our website.

When you define the SLOs for a program, you must map your course-level SLOs to the program outcomes. That is, you must identify which SLOs in which courses support SLOs at the program level.

When you define the SLOs for a course, you must map your course-level SLOs to any relevant General Education outcomes. That is, you must identify which General Education outcome (if any) is supported by a specific outcome in your course.

What are SLO assessments useful for?

That’s up to you. Ideally, you should use SLO assessments to look for information about student performance that you can’t get from our many other measures (i.e., grades, completion rates, transfer rates, etc.) Usually, this means one of two things:
  • SLOs can show us any patterns of strength and weakness behind grades (do your students typically fall down in one particular area?)
  • SLOs can strengthen program coherence, as well as strengthen connections between programs, disciplines and services. (Is there a gap in your program, or overlap? Do your students pass their classes, but generally fail the board exam? Do your courses support General Education? Does your academic support lab translate into student success at the course level?)
  • SLOs can gauge student progress in areas that aren't reflected in the grade (for instance, courses where students earn grades through participation).

How often should we assess SLOs?

If you are starting from scratch, it makes sense to organize an assessment routine that yields data in time for Program Review, now due every October of even years (starting October 2016).

How should we assess them?

Again, do what makes sense. But here are some suggestions.

For courses:

  • Gradable student work (capstone assignment, quizzes, exams etc.);
  • Student self-assessment surveys;
  • Pre-and post-tests;
  • Results in external examinations.

For programs:

  • Capstone assignments/courses/ exams;
  • Student self-assessment surveys;
  • Results in external examinations.

Who maintains the data?

Each department should have an SLO contact person, who collects and records the assessment data.

Who can help me?