Identifying Student Learning Goals

Program-level learning goals enable the implicit to be made explicit. That is, most departments/programs function as though there were agreed-upon learning goals—goals that speak to the content, skills, and values you as faculty want students in the major to learn and develop. The existence of a curriculum in the major and/or of capstone courses, senior seminars, and final projects that ask students to demonstrate understanding of the concepts, methods, and skills in the discipline suggest that learning goals for majors not only exist in the minds of individual departmental faculty but that there is some agreement on them as well. In actuality, it takes an intentional act for faculty to convene to agree upon the goals and where they will be addressed in the curriculum. It is this collective activity that looks across courses when answering the questions What do I want my students to know? and What do I want my students to be able to do upon graduation? that differentiates program-level from course-level learning goals.

As a collective activity, good practice indicates that most, if not all, faculty in a department/program should be involved in approving the goals.

For more specific information on the process and benefits of developing student learning goals, please see Identifying Course-Level Goals.