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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.
- 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
- 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.“
- 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.