Principles & Definitions
(Approved by Senate on June 11, 2012)
In an effort to improve upon existing pedagogical practices and to facilitate greater student achievement, Simon Fraser University is considering the establishment of learning outcomes and their assessment across all courses, programs, Faculties, and the University. This process will be informed by a consultative approach and guided by the Principles articulated herein.
Curriculum development and learning outcomes (if adopted) at SFU will be informed by the institutional goals recently articulated in the University’s Strategic Vision. They are summarized as follows:
1) To equip SFU students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences that prepare them for life in an ever-changing and challenging world.
2) To be a world leader in knowledge mobilization, building on a strong foundation of fundamental research.
3) To be Canada’s most community-engaged research university.
There are many models of learning outcomes and assessment to examine, and SFU will draw knowledge from the best practices of other communities and institutions. We seek to recommend practices that will ultimately improve curriculum and the learning experience of SFU students at the course, program, and degree levels.
Ideally, if recommended, learning outcomes and assessment should fit within our existing curricular development and review processes. SFU departments and units will analyze learning outcomes assessment data and act on findings independently, and will retain institutional autonomy over curriculum.
- The primary purpose of learning outcomes and assessment processes is to communicate transparently the purposes of all degree, program and course requirements.
- As per its Strategic Vision, SFU is committed to academic and intellectual freedom. Learning outcomes for courses and programs will be developed and determined at the local academic unit level and will reflect local disciplinary cultures. These will be aligned with enduring institutional goals, values, and principles as articulated in the SFU Strategic Vision.
- SFU values regular assessment of the achievement of specified learning outcomes as a means of promoting continuous improvement of its courses and programs, and acknowledges that appropriate assessment of learning outcomes can occur before, during and after completion of a course or program.
- Processes required by the establishment of learning outcomes and their assessment will be integrated into the regular processes of curricular and program review and renewal and disciplinary accreditation wherever possible.
- Learning outcomes assessment will enable instructors to improve upon existing curricula and teaching methodologies. Processes of regular assessment will allow the academic units and the University to collect data concerning unit- and University-level achievement of identified learning outcomes. Learning outcomes assessment data will not be utilized for the evaluation of individual instructor and TA/TM performance, nor will the data be used as evidence to demote, fail to promote, dismiss or otherwise penalize individuals.
- It is the responsibility of the University to provide resources (human, capital, technological) to academic units as required to enable and support learning outcomes and assessment procedures. Provision of this support is intended to minimize any addition to the net workload of instructors, TAs/TMs, and department staff.
- As much as possible, the documentation generated by the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Working Group will be made broadly available to the SFU community for transparency and in accordance with SFU’s sustainability goals.
Recognizing that there are varying approaches to learning outcomes, many perspectives and definitions, for the purposes of this project we are using the following definitions:
A ‘learning outcome’ is an area of knowledge, practical skill, area of professional development, attitude, higher-order thinking skill, etc., that an instructor expects students to develop, learn, or master during a course or program. Learning outcomes are observable and measurable by quantitative or qualitative assessment models.
Teaching Goal (a.k.a. Learning Goal)
A ‘teaching goal’ is anything that an instructor or a program coordinator intends that students will learn in their course or program.
A 'program' is a set of coherent curricular requirements leading to a Senate-approved academic credential (e.g. bachelor or graduate degree, certificate or diploma, etc.). The definitive list of such programs is included in the SFU Calendar.