Aligning Educational Outcomes and Practices

In Aligning Educational Outcomes and Practices, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) senior scholar Pat Hutchings discusses alignment of learning outcomes and provides examples of how campuses are approaching and facilitating the alignment process.

The notion of alignment has become increasingly prominent in efforts to improve student learning today. The term, as used in this paper, refers to the linking of intended student learning outcomes with the processes and practices needed to foster those outcomes. Alignment is not a new idea, but it has become more salient as increasing numbers of campuses have devised institution-level learning outcomes, and as frameworks such as the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ Essential Learning Outcomes, Lumina Foundation’s Degree Qualifications Profile, and Tuning USA have become widely known and adopted. It has also become more important as students swirl through multiple institutions, stop out and return, and take advantage of the growing set of providers offering courses, badges, and certificates. Seen from this perspective, alignment is a much-needed counter to fragmentation and incoherence.

But achieving alignment isn’t easy. In 2013 only four in ten institutions reported that the learning goals of all of their academic programs were aligned with the institution’s stated learning outcomes. Drawing on work by the NILOA, this paper explores what campuses can do to facilitate this process in a way that makes a difference in the experience and achievements of learners. Specifically it reviews the use of curricular mapping as one prominent approach to achieving alignment; explores another approach that emerges more directly from the interests and work of faculty; proposes a number of implications for approaching the work of alignment; and concludes with an examination of the roles that students can play in our thinking about alignment. The aim of the paper is to begin to “crack open” this topic in ways that recognize its multiple levels, full range of contributors, and complexity.

Hutchings, P. (2016). Aligning educational outcomes and practices. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

(Abstract provided by NILOA)

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