Developing Program SLOs

Program Student Learning Outcomes (disciplines, majors, and certificates) are listed in the course catalog if they are instructional programs. For service programs, they are listed on department assessment pages. Note: for courses and instructional programs, these outcomes are focussed on student learning (SLOs or student-learning outcomes).

1: Create an inventory of a department’s programs.

Title 5 defines a program as “an organized sequence of courses leading to a defined objective, a degree, a certificate, a diploma, a license, or transfer to another institution of higher education.”

All departments at City College of San Francisco have at least one program. Each certificate or major in a department constitutes a program. Departments may also have disciplines that do not have certificates or majors; those should be considered programs as well. Some departments may wish to expand a particular discipline into several programs (e.g., remedial, degree-applicable, and transfer-level Mathematics). Be sure to consider the following:

  • Are there certain pathways that students take to achieve a particular goal? Certificate and degree programs are one type of “student pathway”, but you may have others – remedial to degree-applicable coursework; basic skills to academic and CTE programs, etc.
  • Programs are often organized by academic disciplines and departments, but not always
  • Many departments may have multiple programs – the number will vary by the number of degrees and certificates and also by student pathways through the department’s offerings
  • Your department may have courses that are part of another department’s program

2. Consider the purpose/goals of each program.

When trying to write a program SLO, it is often helpful to create a mission statement for the program.

Program mission statements may or may not be different from the mission statement for your department. A department with a single program may have the same mission statement for department and program, while a department with multiple programs will likely have a broader department mission statement and more specific program mission statements.

A mission statement will often begin with the program in question, then make a statement about what that program does or provides, and to whom or for whom it is provided.

You also might ask yourself questions:

  • What will a student who completes this program be able to do?
  • What concepts or skills run throughout all (or many) of your program’s courses?
  • What skills or knowledge will students who complete the program have?
  • What will students gain from completing this program?

3. Decide how many SLOs your program needs

Some programs may only need one or two SLOs

  • Some programs consist of courses that all develop a single skill through various topics (for example, literary analysis is a single skill developed through practice with multiple literary traditions and genres)
  • Some programs have a capstone course that ties together elements from all of the other courses – in this case, the capstone course SLO(s) can also be the program SLO(s) (for example, a paralegal studies capstone course that integrates concepts from previous courses and provides students the opportunity to practice them in a workplace setting)

Other programs may need several SLOs

  • Some programs’ courses may develop two or more “strands” of knowledge or skills within the program (for example, a psychology program may include courses that fall into biological and social psychology or a modern language program may have goals in both linguistic and cultural competence)
  • Some programs may have a split focus between content knowledge or theory and the application of that knowledge (for example, a science program that has lecture and lab components or a CTE program that focuses on both content area and workplace (or “soft”) skills)
  • Some programs have external standards that course and program SLOs must align with regardless of the number (i.e. Culinary Arts is accredited by the American Culinary Federation).

4. Draft your program SLOs.

Writing program SLOs is very similar to writing course-level SLOs. Keep the SLOs focused on the students (what will the student be able to do?) as opposed to the teacher (what will be taught?)

  • Use critical thinking verbs appropriate to the level of the program ( Bloom’s Taxonomy)
  • Avoid verbs that are not readily observable or assessable (such as “understand” or “know” or “feel”)

5. Check the SLO with assessment options.

Make sure that the program SLO is something that is readily observable and assessable – in other words, build in assessment from the beginning. Don’t create a program SLO that you can’t envision a way to observe or evaluate or that requires data that you won’t be able to access.