Learning Outcomes Assessment – A Step By Step

Doug Miller

A post by Guest Blogger, Doug Miller, faculty member and New Media Manager at DePaul University.

Douglas Lee Miller – Chicago, IL | about.me

On Twitter: @douglasLmiller

Learning Outcomes Assessment: Step by StepPresenters: Gail Rooney and Julia Panke Makela, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Nothing says real world application like a “step by step” and this one was both useful and inspiring. What follows are brief notes on a much more complete presentation about the deployment of these learning outcomes assessments in a particular context. The hope is that these notes and their brief outline of the constituent parts my inspire you to learn more.

From the presentation:

First, as a framework, it is important to define assessment as a process that is continuous. It tells a story and shares the dual function of providing continuous service and celebrating achievement.

What can we assess? We can assess needs, participation, satisfaction, and learning. There are many different desired outcomes, but learning is at the heart of what we are about in career services.

To be a part of the core function, career services needs to think of themselves as learning partners. -Rooney

Learning outcomes focus on client experiences.

We measure what clients can know, do, demonstrate or feel. How have they changed?

Rooney describes the ALOI cycle

Rooney describes the ALOI cycle

Focus in career services is too often on process and not on the change we want to see happen in our client experience. The purpose of the learning outcomes assessment is to be able to measure the changes we see in the client experience and behavior as a result of interactions with particular learning elements.

The steps below shed light on the path to deploying some learning outcomes assessments and on some of the more important questions an institution my ask while deploying them. They also illustrate the cyclical nature of the process while illustrating the need to assess and revise.

Step 1 – Defining Context

Guiding Questions: Who is the audience? What are the circumstances?

Step 2 – Brainstorming Outcomes

Guiding Questions: What do you want your audience to be able to do, demonstrate, value, or feel?

Step 3a – Writing Outcome Statements

Formula = “Intended learners who take will be able to .”

Step 3b – Writing Outcomes Statements

Useful construct = Blooms Taxonomy

Step 4 – Connect Theory to Practice

Helpful Suggestion: Look for a rubric from the field and place it in your context.

Step 5 – Prioritize Learning Outcomes

Guiding Question: If you had to pick only 3 which would be most helpful? Most important to stakeholders?

Step 6 – Evaluate the Outcomes

Helpful Suggestion: The purpose is to make a judgement. Too often we just use surveys – examine some other tools that may add dimension to the common survey. Look for demonstrable behavior changes.

Step 7 – Reflect on Results and Process

Guiding Questions: What happened that you expected? What took you by surprise?

Step 8 – Use the Assessments

Guiding Questions: What are you going to keep, modify, discontinue, explore?.

Bloggers note: The above steps were presented in a specific context – resume – that made it fairly easy to translate client behavior changes into learning outcomes. This author can imagine more than a few contexts whereby charting the behavior changes would be difficult if not problematic, especially in the areas of so called “soft skill” development. Despite this, there were some healthy and creative suggestions offered up by attendees that included everything from video taping to web analytics.

Finally, the most important advice from Rooney in the session is to start soon, start small, and to start with what you know you do well and build out from there. Making learning outcome assessments work is not easy and requires constant fine tuning – but the end results are by their very nature measurable.

A last reminder of Rooney's mantra as you set to the task of creating your own learning outcomes assessment tools: what did we help our clients to do, demonstrate, value, or feel that was different than from before we interacted with them?

In this case Rooney prompted at least this author's learning to demonstrate the outcomes assessment as a process – specifically to go home and revise my next syllabus before next quarter begins.

For more information see the story below:

The National Career Development Association | Learning Outcomes Assessment Step-By-Step: The Story Behind NCDA’s New Monograph


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