Thursday, March 26: How we can use learning outcomes to improve instruction?

As part of preparing for the university's accreditation review and site visit, the university and its academic departments focused on creating outcomes for courses and programs that can be used as measures of learning. However, the value of specifying such outcomes goes far beyond meeting accreditation needs. They are a valuable source of information on how we can systematically improve the quality of education our students obtain, and can form the basis of a feedback loop that can result in an upward spiral.

A framework called the Degree Qualification Profile (DQP) is currently a popular topic in national higher education news since its recent update. The DQP document provides a model for specifying what students should be able to do as a result of having a degree, which would result in both students and faculty having a clearer understanding of what they should be learning and thus create curricula that are aligned much more closely with it.

But do our students perceive the benefits of seminars? Do they understand why there might be great value in listening and exchanging ideas with their peers, when they may have been indoctrinated with the idea that the point of going to class is to get information from an expert, i.e., the professor? Do even teachers fully appreciate why the seminar approach is being advocated and what the advantage of discussions is so that they can better persuade students of its benefits?

While CWRU has focused on improving its retention efforts so that more of its matriculants graduate and do so in a timely fashion, from the point of view of the student or the nation, what matters is whether students graduate at all, not that they graduate from the same institution that they began college. Students often need, for many reasons, to transfer from one institution to another. At present such transitions are fraught with difficulties for the student in transferring credits. Having clearly specific learning outcomes for courses and programs could make this easier for students.

The European Community has had to deal with this issue as the easing of restrictions for work and study has resulted in students attending educational institutions in more than one country and they have moved ahead on enabling this to occur more smoothly. As globalization increases, there will be more students moving between Europe and the US and we too will be increasingly confronted with international students transferring here and our students transferring to other countries. As a result, being clear about what students are learning is of increasing importance to them and us.

At the next session, Dr. Susan Perry, the university's Director of Outcome Assessment, will walk us through the DQP and how we can use it to improve the educational mission of the university.

Please join us for this discussion from 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. in the Herrick Room, which is on the ground floor of the Allen building (at the corner of Adelbert and Euclid).

Pizza lunch, sodas and water will be provided at this session. To help us estimate the amount to order, please let us know if you plan to attend each session by emailing us at