You are here

Identify Assessment Goals and Outcomes

Learning goals/outcomes refer to what graduate programs want students to achieve. Goals/outcomes can be attained through classroom and external learning activities.

When developing learning goals/outcomes, graduate programs should consider what they expect students to learn while in the program and how students may be different because of the program experience. Learning goals/outcomes can target cognitive outcomes (what students know) or behavioral outcomes (what students do). If a graduate program is starting the assessment process for the first time, it is probably wise to start with a few broad learning goals/outcomes. This will make the task seem less daunting.

  1. Programs should develop 3-5 learning goals/outcomes that master's or doctoral students are expected to achieve. (That is, "Students who complete our doctoral program should be able to do x.") Examples:
    • Conduct research to answer novel questions in the field
    • Conduct research ethically
    • Demonstrate an understanding of the theories and research approaches in the field
    • Use both oral and written forms of communication effectively to explain concepts in the field to both lay and expert audiences
  2. Criteria should be established for the goals/outcomes. Example: ”The minimal acceptable criterion is that 75% of students will obtain a rating of 'meets expectations' or higher. When 95% of students earn a rating of 'meets expectation,'the performance standard constituting excellence for this learning outcome will be achieved.“
  3. A timeline should be established for each goal/outcome. This timeline indicates the frequency by which each goal/outcome will be assessed. It is not necessary to assess each goal every year.