An overview of the purpose statement
What is a purpose statement?
The purpose statement identifies the overall goals or aims of the degree program (or academic program), as collectively understood by the faculty members teaching in the program. The degree program purpose statement summarizes the following in a manner that differentiates it from other academic programs offered at NAU:
- The scope of the program,
- The content studied, skills developed and so on,
- The learning experiences provided, and
- The future opportunities for which it prepares students.
Graduate degree programs also address the population that is best suited for the graduate program.
Why have a purpose statement for your academic program?
Understanding and articulating your program’s overall goals or aims accomplishes a number of things. Most importantly, it requires the program’s faculty to come to agreement upon the purpose of learning, the boundaries of learning, and the future opportunities students will be prepared to engage in by completing the program. In turn, the identification of the overall goals and aims of the program assists faculty in determining the program and course level learning outcomes that will lead to the achievement of the program’s purpose. Finally, the purpose is meant to guide and focus faculty instructional decisions as they design the curriculum to achieve the program’s larger aims and goals.
What is Backward Design? Why Backward Design?
“Backward Design” focuses on designing a program’s curriculum by first setting the purpose and outcomes of the program, then working backward to develop approaches to instruction and course progression that will achieve the purpose and learning outcomes set for the program. In Backward Design, the purpose statement and learning outcomes create the foundation for designing a program, so that faculty can focus their selection of course requirements, assignments, teaching techniques, and other approaches toward instruction toward the end-goal: achieving the program’s purpose and learning outcomes.
Backward Design is very important when developing a Purpose Statement, particularly when it comes to the future opportunities that students will be prepared for upon completion of their degree. A degree that focuses on ensuring a student has all of the skills to complete a certification exam is designed very differently from a degree that prepares students to attend graduate school or conduct research, or to a degree that is focused on ensuring students have the critical thinking, writing, and other general skills to be successful in a range of future areas. Identifying the scope, content, and future opportunities of the degree begins to define what the range of learning experiences, course sequencing, and/or learning outcomes will be necessary to ensure student success in their futures beyond NAU.