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Learning outcomes planned for 2014

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A new form of university evaluation is on the horizon, as a task force has been finalizing the University-wide undergraduate student learning outcomes.
Plans for developing learning outcomes started in the spring of 2012. Since then, the draft has gone through two revisions after feedback from various university faculty and administrative groups. The final draft has been open to feedback from all parties through a contact email on the student learning outcomes’ website.
“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Donna LaVoie, the associate dean of planning and resources said. “We have had the opportunity to meet with about 450 people [including faculty, staff, and students] across our multiple sessions of sharing the outcomes… Many of the comments we’ve received have been very helpful in shaping the specifics of the outcomes.”
The learning outcomes will serve as a way of measuring how well Saint Louis University is fulfilling its mission to provide a distinct educational experience. Development of the learning outcomes was inspired by a desire to more effectively evaluate the University’s progress toward its goals. In addition, the Higher Learning Commission deemed it necessary that SLU have a concrete method of measuring student learning in order to maintain its accreditation.
“We believe that the various educational experiences engaged in by students here at SLU are distinctive and unique to SLU, even amongst our Catholic, Jesuit peer institutions,” LaVoie said. “It’s important that we not make these claims, though, without being able to evidence that such claims are true.”
In the current learning outcomes document there are five tenets that are considered to effectively communicate a distinctive SLU experience: spirituality, community, knowledge, inquiry and leadership. It has four main sections, which outline more specifically what students are expected to achieve upon graduation from the university.
One criterion of the learning outcomes draft states that graduates will be able to “identify and apply multiple methods of inquiry to address complex questions.”
Spirituality stands out most clearly Jesuit-influenced metric, with the heading, most clearly Jesuit-influenced metric, with the heading, “Graduates will understand their relationship with the transcendent.”
“Our intent in using this term as part of a university-level outcome was to leave room for different understandings of ‘the transcendent’,” the student outcomes website says, “and to encompass the possibility that a person’s relationship with the transcendent is characterized by nonbelief.”
The five principles were informed by “The Five Dimensions of a Saint Louis University Education,” a document adopted by SLU in 2002 meant to clearly state the University’s idea of holistic student formation in the Jesuit tradition.
Different from the end-of-semester surveys which student’s often take in their classes, the learning outcomes will utilize other tools to measure students’ learning experiences.
The process for evaluation will involve samples collected from various students’ papers, capstone projects and other items that demonstrate a student’s capabilities.
Furthermore, the learning outcomes aren’t intended to evaluate students or classes specifically, but to assess the University’s ability as a whole to achieve its goals.
Both curricular and co-curricular activities will be considered in the grading process.
“Co-curricular experiences are all those activities that aren’t traditionally tied to course work,” LaVoie said. “All these experiences shape an individual, and we want students to be able to reflect on all the activities they engage in while a student, to think about how those activities have shaped or even transformed him or her.”
According to the student outcomes website, the samples will likely be evaluated by faculty and staff and graded against rubrics that the task force will develop after finalizing the learning outcomes document.
LaVoie said that the task force plans to have the outcomes, fully developed rubrics and established methods for collecting samples completed by Fall 2013.

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