Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Program (SLOAP)

In order to coordinate assessment activities at BHCC, the Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Program (SLOAP) was designed and implemented by full-time faculty during the 2003-2004 academic year. The SLOAP Taskforce, currently composed of faculty and professional staff representatives from each academic and co-curricular department, oversees ongoing assessment of student learning outcomes on the course, program and institutional levels. Faculty and professional staff submit outcome development and assessment proposals to the Taskforce for approval and, once the proposed project is complete, submit a report of their findings to the Taskforce. Participants use data from SLOAP projects to improve learning where assessment projects indicate improvement is needed. All SLOAP data is maintained by individual departments and on the SLOAP ePortfolio page:

Why Do We Use Student Learning Outcomes?

Student learning outcomes define the learning that takes place in a structured learning experience: a course or a co-curricular activity.  Transparently defining student learning outcomes advances student success.

Clear student learning outcomes equip students, faculty, staff and other internal/external stakeholders to navigate a structured learning experience purposefully.  They provide focus and direction for a structured learning experience, which allows for streamlined assessment and reflection on the learning experience.  Moreover, with clear student learning outcomes, faculty and staff can ensure consistency while maintaining academic freedom. 

When student learning outcomes are defined, it is easier for students to articulate clearly what they have learned in a course or through an activity. This helps students provide clear information about their education when applying for transfer or graduate school, preparing resumes, and defining their educational, personal, and professional goals.  Likewise, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders can connect structured learning experiences to broader institutional outcomes, resources, and needs. 

How Do You Create Student Learning Outcomes?

Imagine you could guarantee that students in your course would learn to do approximately 6 things. What would those 6 most important things be?

Those essential components would become your learning outcomes. 

To generate ideas about what those things should be, you can draw on official course descriptions, look at commonalities among various approaches to the course, and reflect on what makes for truly excellent student work in this area.

Student learning outcomes for a course or other large learning experience should be pretty big ideas--they are not the same as the outcomes for a single activity or assignment.  There shouldn’t be too many of them: you should be able to count them on your two hands.  If you run out of fingers, you have too many, and they are probably too narrow.

When you begin to write your outcomes, the general structure usually looks like this:

Students will be able to ___(verb)____  ____(object)____

For example, “By the end of this course, students will be able to evaluate the theoretical and methodological foundations of secondary critical material and employ this evaluation to defend their position on the topic.” (from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, University Toronto)

When you review your learning outcomes, consider that they should be:

  • Clear: learning outcomes should be specific and focused, describing the standards for success as clearly as possible, even when the idea or process is complex.
  • Dynamic: while individual outcomes should be specific, instructors should be able to provide support for students to reach the outcome in diverse, adaptable ways.
  • Learner-centered: rather than explaining what the instructor will do in the course, good learning outcomes describe what the student will do. This helps both instructors and students focus on the experience of the learner, and helps the learner understand why that knowledge and those skills are useful and valuable to their personal, professional, and academic future.
  • Ambitious and Achievable. They should set high, realistic expectations to provide a benchmark for student success in and beyond the course.
  • Current: fields of study continue to progress and develop over time, and the learning outcomes should reflect the most up-to-date standards in the relevant field of study.
  • Contextual: they should reflect where the learning is taking place and how the learning is likely to be applied. For example, in designing outcomes for a course, you might consider the institution’s goals, the student population, and the local community, and might consider how the course might connect to transfer destinations or standardized exams in the field.

(Adapted from the Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, University Toronto)

Tools and Resources for Using Student Learning Outcomes

Strong outcomes are the foundation for building College curriculum, co-curricular support services and programs, and managing teams and workgroups within the College. Here are some resources to help you design and use Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment for your work with activities such as curriculum development or redesign, designing assignments and student assessments within your courses or other structured learning experiences, program review for accreditation, program alignment to industry standards or employer needs, communicating program standards and expectations to transfer institutions, aligning department goals to College values and mission, coordinating work on major College initiatives, project planning across teams, drafting working descriptions and work plans for new hires, establishing expectations within work groups, strategic planning.

Bunker Hill Community College SLOAP: A set of resources developed over the years by the BHCC SLOAP team.  Many of these resources are a great place to start in developing your outcomes and becoming acquainted with assessment.

National Institute for Learning Outcomes and Assessment (NILO): NILO hosts an Outcomes Assessment library of publications which will be useful to those approaching outcomes and assessment from varied positions within the College, i.e. curriculum mapping, outcomes assessment for libraries, program level assessment and accreditation, assessment for student affairs offices, ect.  There clearinghouse of publications also contain articles and studies that will be useful to teams seeking to design or improve their approach to outcomes and outcomes assessment.

University of Toronto Teaching Support: A great starting point for teams building or assessing outcomes.  This site has straight-forward advice and guidelines for making effective syllabi, designing and redesigning curriculum, and drafting outcomes.

Advancing Massachusetts Culture of Outcomes Assessment (AMCOA): Resources from area Massachusetts Colleges.  BHCC sponsors interested faculty to attend AMCOA meetings.

Wabash National Study: An ongoing longitudinal study of learning outcomes of Liberal Studies from 49 colleges and universities.