Outcomes > Overall program learning outcomes

Program learning outcomes are those higher level outcomes which have been specified for a course or program. These outcomes help educators think about how the unit contributes to a course overall. For units where progression through the course is highly dependent on success within that unit, these outcomes are particularly significant. Program outcomes are often identified in the unit proposal, but also may have changed since the unit was established. Linking to these higher level outcomes in a clear and logical manner can help learners make sense of the unit within their program of study. Without these links, the unit may seem disconnected. Checking the formal documentation is helpful.

When thinking about program level learning, it is worth remembering that assessment develops learners across units; summative assessment in one unit serves a formative purpose for the next. Likewise, skills developed in one assessment (for example, writing essays), also tend to develop as the learner progresses through the course. These program outcomes can help guide the links between units in designing assessment. Formal and informal communication with colleagues about how to address these outcomes is very important.

Assessment considerations:

  • What are the overall outcomes for the program in which your unit sits?
  • How does your unit reflect these outcomes?
  • How do you communicate with your colleagues about the overall purpose of the individual units within the program?
  • Are there also any departmental, school or faculty level outcomes that are relevant?
  • Is it appropriate to map assessment across the units within a program? If so, how can this process: a) iteratively develop skills and knowledge in core content; b) iteratively develop skills in assessment techniques; and c) demonstrate success for progression?

Also refer to:

Purposes > Generate grades

Purposes > Future judgements

Context > Overall program

Tasks > Distribution

Educator experiences

Matching learning outcomes to assessment

So we all sat down as a team and reviewed the overall learning outcomes for the program; in thinking about how much assessment should be tilted towards independent research versus everything else. And it was clear to us, after quite a long discussion, that we were overemphasising research for many students who did not have an interest or a requirement in this regard. And that a thesis assessment item, did not suit the majority of our students. – Health sciences lecturer

Developing disciplinary skills

Being able to write an historical essay is what marks you out as a historian. In every history unit a student does, they have to write at least one essay. But essay writing is not an innate ability. We can’t expect first year students – even those who have done history at Year 12 level – to be able to just write essays the way we want them. Good assessment for first years is assessment that actually trains the student in essay writing. The idea is that we have tasks that will feed into the process of writing an essay, such as a source analysis or debate analysis. The essay remains the pinnacle in history and that’s what we are aiming towards. – History Lecturer