Frequently Asked Questions

Updated October 2006

1. What is a student learning outcome (SLO)?

An SLO is anything that a student knows, does, thinks or feels as a result of an educational experience.

1b. What is an AUO (Administrative Unit Objective)?

An AUO is what clients experience,receive, or understand as a result of a given service.

2. How are student learning outcomes different from measurable objectives?

Measurable objectives set the parameters for the course. SLOs address what students leave the course with. EX: Student will be able to write an essay with correct form and format in a variety of rhetorical modes. (Measurable Objective). Student will be able to explain the structure of an essay. (SLO).

3. Are student learning outcomes just a passing fad, a flavor of the month?

Mt.SAC has incorporated SLOs into programs such as graphic arts, psych tech, business and the career institutes. Additionally, VTEA grants have supported SLO training such as Langford and Alverno Institutes over the past 10 years. Last year, accreditation has also added impetus to implement SLOs into the assessment process.

4. Who else is implementing SLOs?

SLOs have been incorporated into accrediting standards by accreditation commissions across the country for the past 20 years. WASC is the last accrediting group to incorporate SLOs into its process. See the following sites: Anne Arundel: http://www.aacc.cc.md.us/ (go to Student Outcomes Assessment), Mira Costa College: http://www.miracosta.cc.ca.us/accreditation/

5. Why is Mt. SAC using the Nichols model when there are so many others out there?

The Academic Senate-appointed SLOs Steering Committee considered many models and chose the Nichols model because it gave the AUOs option, allowing us to include the support areas. It also adapted well to the grass roots approach the committee believed was vital to success while it honored past improvement initiatives on campus.

6. Why is it important to include support areas in this initiative?

Mt. SAC’s original SLOs Implementation Proposal was based on the premise that the entire campus supports student learning. It also makes the assumption that success in a transformative effort such as this is tied to total campus commitment.

7. What about those departments on campus that have already been working with SLOs?

The SLOs/AUOs Implmentation team has been pleased to find a number of departments already working on SLOs. Some are using our model and some are not. In either case, we have recorded the departments’ efforts, and we have worked with faculty members on any minor adjustments needed for consistency with campus-wide efforts and for documentation purposes.

8. Why should I participate in SLOs if I’m not an instructor?

Student learning experiences don’t just occur in the classroom. Support for learning is required across the college community. Example: Students will be able to readily utilize the available resources in the library.

9. How are SLOs connected to continuous quality improvement (cqi)?

Actually, the core concepts are similar. SLOs are a concrete way to measure our effectiveness.

10. How long does it take to develop SLOs?

While SLOs can be generated in a two hour meeting, assessing them could require as much as a year’s planning.

11. Will SLO Assessment and Results be tied to the budget process or allocation of department funds?

Monies will be needed to support the assessment process, SLOs will not drive the budget process or determine the allocation of funds.

12. Is the SLO process going to be connected to salaries, advancement, or faculty evaluation?

These are contract issues.

13. How is assessment of SLOs different than assignment of a grade?

The primary difference is in the use of the assessment results. The assignment of a grade quantifies the overall level of student achievement or competency, allowing for a common basis of comparison assuming all faculty utilize the same standards for grading. The grade, however, gives no information about what a student has learned. Additionally, SLOs look at the student population, not the individual, achievement.

14. Are SLOs intended to replace the grading system?

No. See Number 10.

15. What if our assessment tells us that our students are NOT meeting the SLOs we have established?

Then…congratulations! You have just learned something very important about either your program or your assessment instrument or both. Results may be unexpected, but they are always fruitful inasmuch as they give us information about what we are doing.