Institutions have reported outcomes for years. However, "student outcomes" and "student learning outcomes" are not the same. Student outcomes refer to aggregate statistics on groups of students (e.g., graduation rates, retention rates, transfer rates, and employment rates for a graduating class)…
Such outcomes should be classified as outputs as they reflect what the institution has accomplished; they do not reflect what (or how much) students have learned.
Nor do they answer the questions outlined above; in fact, they do not measure changes in the students as a result of their college experience. As opposed to outcomes that measure aggregated statistics on an institution-wide basis, student learning outcomes are concerned with attributes and abilities, both cognitive and affective, which reflect how the student experiences at the institution supported their development as individuals. Students are asked to demonstrate acquisition of specific knowledge and skills, generally:
In a coordinated effort to answer these results-oriented questions, higher education governing and monitoring bodies have been working to address this need for accountability. They have (and are continuing to do so) reviewed and revised the standards that institutions use to demonstrate their efficiency and effectiveness. At the national level, both the American Association for Higher Education (AAHE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have advocated the need to increase awareness, the value, and necessity for measuring and reporting student learning as outcomes. However, because of the decentralized structure of accreditation of higher education in the United States, it has become the responsibility of the regional higher education institutional accreditation associations to develop standards by which to hold institutions accountable through evaluation, including the imposition of student learning outcome measures. (McMurtrie 2000)
In the past, prescriptive standards that regional accrediting bodies established to accredit individual higher education institutions have been inputs- and outputs-based, focused on measuring and reporting the processes and structures concerning the delivery and use of institutional services. To increase accountability practices, regional accrediting bodies are placing more pressure on institutions to measure what students learn by applying assessment processes, replacing traditional standards with less prescriptive standards seeking outcome measures--institutional outcomes and student learning outcomes. Furthermore, several of the regional accreditors are requesting their member institutions to prepare assessment plans that measure outcomes, especially student learning outcomes, within the institution. (Hernon 2002)
Student learning outcomes might be envisioned as applying only to undergraduates, when, in fact, they could be appropriate to graduate students, be they master's or doctoral students. At the same time, such measures could be appropriate for other constituent groups that the library serves. Moving beyond student learning outcomes, research outcomes are appropriate for graduate students, especially doctoral students, and for the faculty. As we noted in An ...
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