How to begin
Developing agreed upon program-specific student learning goals is not always a quick and easy task. Programs vary in the extent to which the faculty share a common disciplinary framework or epistemology. When programs hold many subfields, specialties, or perspectives, identifying agreed upon goals may be more difficult than in programs where there is a unified approach to the discipline.
Coming to agreement on the crucial concepts, skills, attitudes, etc., of the program
Before actually writing or revising departmental goals and objectives, try some of the following activities:
Approach #1: Have open discussions with department faculty on one of the following topics or similar topics
- Describe the ideal student in your program at various phases throughout your program. Be concrete and focus on those strengths, skills, and values that you feel are the result of, or at least supported and nurtured by, the program experience. Then ask:
- What does this student know?
- What can this student do?
- What does this student care about?
- List and briefly describe the program experiences that contribute most to the development of the ideal student.
- List the achievements you implicitly expect of graduates in each major field.
- Describe your alumni in terms of such achievements as career accomplishments, lifestyles, citizenship activities, and aesthetic and intellectual involvement.
Approach #2: Review and react to goals and objectives from another unit that is similar but external
- Try grouping the statements into broad categories of student outcomes (e.g., knowledge, attitudes, behavior).
Approach #3: Collect and review instructional materials
- Try sorting materials by the type of learning each one is designed to promote: recognition/recall, comprehension/sim-ple application, critical thinking/problem-solving.
- Use any of the following:
- Syllabi and course outlines
- Course assignments and tests
- Textbooks (especially the tables of contents, introductions, and summaries)
Approach #4: Collect and review documents that describe your department and its programs
- Brochures and catalog descriptions
- Accreditation reports
- Curriculum committee reports
- Mission statements
Approach #5: Use a Delphi technique or a modification
- Choose an impartial facilitator to mediate a panel discussion about possible program goals. In a brainstorming session, ask each panel member to build a list of criteria that he or she thinks is important for program goals.
- For each criterion, have each member anonymously rank it as: 1-very important; 2-somewhat important; or 3-not important.
- Place the criteria in rank order and show the (anonymous) results to the panel.
- Discuss possible reasons for items with high standard deviations.
- Repeat the ranking process among the panelists until the panel can reach consensus. The objective is to reach consensus before writing goals and objectives.
adapted from the Ball State University, Assessment Workbook (1999).