Monday, March 16, 2015

Faculty Projects – Learning the Learning Outcome

Professor: Shannon Collins

Department: CSD

Name of Group: First Year Only Sections

Learning outcomes are everywhere nowadays. In fact, a quick google search of “learning outcomes” would provide the outcome that even learning outcomes now have learning outcomes, so that those who are learning to create learning outcomes can come out assured that their learning is the outcome of previously established learning outcomes (which undoubtedly also fulfilled learning outcomes).

Yet, in spite of—or maybe because of—their rather ubiquitous nature, many students pay very little attention to learning outcomes. Professor Shannon Collins, department of CSD, speaks to this fact with her own classroom findings:

"At the beginning of the semester, I had students complete a document that had them list their courses and the learning outcomes for each class, and many asked the question, 'What is a learning outcome?' Sadly, not one student out of thirty-three could name at least one outcome for each class."

Collins sought to re-emphasize the importance of learning outcomes by establishing them as guideposts for evaluation:

"I realized that if I spent more time discussing [the learning outcomes] and connecting them to my lectures, PowerPoints, and the textbook, the students could use the outcomes to help study for exams. They created their own study guides using the learning outcomes for the unit. I also added learning outcomes for each unit to the content pages of D2L."

As an additional bonus, this aided her in answering the ever-persistent questions concerning exams:

"Every year it seems that students in my classes are always asking 'What do I need to know for the exam?' Though this isn’t a difficult question, I wanted them to find a way to start picking out what I felt were important concepts, ideas, vocabulary, and how to make connections across the content. I drew attention to the learning outcomes for the course and for each unit and talked explicitly how they were related to the content."  

By the end of the semester, Collins found that students were not only more privy to the learning outcomes in their individual courses, but they were also able to effectively use them as methods for guiding their learning:

"I completed the same activity at the end of the semester by having them identify the learning outcomes for their courses. It was rewarding to see the previously blank form now filled in. It was encouraging to see them highlight the outcomes and ask questions based on those. This made me realize they were trying to understand them and how important they are to the course and/or topic. I feel like by the end of the semester, the student had a better understanding of the types of tests I give and the content I cover in an exam. It helped me answer their questions about exams when I could refer back to the learning outcomes."

Write up by Jon Pumper

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