The Birth Of Outcomes, And How They Went Awry

1986 Words Jul 19th, 2016 8 Pages
The Birth of Outcomes, and How They Went Awry

In the 1990s, reformers thought they could improve teaching and learning in college if they insisted that colleges declare their specific “learning goals,” with instructors defining “the knowledge, intellectual skills, competencies, and attitudes that each student is expected to gain.”13 The reformers’ theory was that these faculty-enumerated learning objectives would serve as the hooks that would then be used by administrators to initiate reviews of actual student work, the key to improving teaching. The logic went like this:

Step 1. Faculty members declare their goals for students, what became known as “student learning outcomes,” or SLOs.
Step 2. Observers seek evidence of whether students met those goals, what became known as “assessment.”
Step 3. Faculty improve their instruction based on the assessment.
That was the idea. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Not even close.

In 2001, Peter Ewell, a leader in the student-learning-outcome movement, reported that there had been progress toward the reformers’ goal: most accreditors had included at least some mention of “student learning” in the standards they used to judge colleges. In a paper commissioned by accreditors, he urged them to be “more aggressive and creative in requiring evidence of student learning outcomes as an integral part of their standards and processes for review.”14 In 2006, Secretary Spellings took up the charge, and accreditors pledged to focus more on…
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