Program Learning Outcomes

Overview: Learning outcomes at UCSB

Institutional Learning Outcomes

UCSB’s mission statement contains 5 core educational values: 

  • Connecting Teaching & Research: students will experience a comprehensive liberal arts education via full participation in a leading research institution.

  • Learning as Discovery: students will explore knowledge fields in ways that stimulate independent thought, critical reasoning, and creativity. 

  • Academic Collaboration: students will join a community of faculty and staff in a culture of interdisciplinary collaboration that is responsive to the needs of our multicultural and global society.

  • Public Service: students will help to create and distribute knowledge that advances well-being in our state, our nation, and the world. 

  • Local Context: students will live and learn in an environment that draws inspiration, opportunity, and advantage from the beauty and resources of our location on traditional Chumash lands at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

This educational vision for students at our university informs the priorities and goals of all our faculty and staff, across our various colleges and their constituent departments and programs:

College of Letters and Science, College of Engineering, College of Creative Studies; Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. General Catalog: Colleges & Departments

Program-level Learning Outcomes (PLOs)

Each degree-granting undergraduate or graduate program has its own list of educational aims: the conceptual knowledge, practical skills, experiences, perspective-awareness, and/or values that students will be familiar with by the time they complete the program. These distinct Program Learning Outcomes are defined by department faculty and approved by both the Council on Assessment and the Academic Senate’s Graduate or Undergraduate Faculty Senate Council.

Each program’s learning outcomes reflect the epistemological characteristics of that discipline, as well as the academic level of that degree. For example, mathematics and anthropology prioritize distinct types of knowledge and use specialized methodologies to develop those respective knowledge-bases. 

Yet all program learning outcomes commonly reflect the aforementioned educational values expressed in UCSB’s mission statement. You can explore each department’s programs, and the senate-approved learning outcomes for these programs, via UCSB’s General Catalog. General Catalog: Academic Department Directory

Course-level Learning Outcomes

All courses need specific learning outcomes: what students are expected to know and be able to do by the end of a course. These outcomes are defined by the faculty who craft the courses, relate specifically to the materials and activities included in that course’s curriculum, and are stated explicitly within the course syllabus. This also applies to GE courses.

Gauchospace: ‘Course Learning Outcomes’ block

Gauchospace: Start-of-Quarter Checklist (Syllabus, etc.)

Course outcomes reflect the educational aims of the department and university programs to which the course contributes. Each program creates a Curriculum Map that defines which courses in their program address each program learning outcome(s), and at what level (e.g., a field’s research methods may be discussed in an introductory theories course, while critical thinking and information literacy may be practiced and demonstrated in an upper-division course). 

Most courses explicitly address one or more of the Core Competencies outlined by WASC: Information Literacy, Quantitative Reasoning, Critical Thinking, Written Communication, and Oral Communication. In addition, courses within a department that complete a General Education Requirement for the university may meet some Subject Area A-G requirements, and/or a Special Subject Area requirement (such as the World Cultures or Writing Requirement).

Some departments provide links to their courses, syllabi, and learning outcomes. You can explore department’s websites here: UCSB: Academic Departments & Programs.

All Approved Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs):

College of Letters & Science

Bren School of Environmental Science & Management

  • Environmental Science and Management: (MESM) , (PhD)

The Gevirtz Graduate School of Education

General Education

GE Subject Areas

Special Subject Areas

To Create PLOs:

Create outcomes that reflect expectations for student learning and achievement within department programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. Program learning outcomes must be approved by a majority vote of department faculty. 

For further guidance on PLO creation and revision see the WASC Rubric for Assessing the Quality of PLOs

To Revise/Update PLOs:

  1. Program/Department drafts revisions via majority vote of departmental faculty.
  2. Program Chair sends revision to Assessment Coordinator who will review draft & work with department to ensure PLOs are assessable.
  3. Assessment Coordinator sends revision to the Council on Assessment (CoA) who review for alignment with curriculum and can be evaluated through assessment research.  
  4. CoA sends revision back to the Department.  The Department sends final version to the Graduate/Undergraduate Faculty Senate Councils (and FECs) who will ensure PLOs reflect academic standards and expectations
  5. PLOs are formally approved.