Learning outcomes for undergraduate students facing revisions

Learning outcomes for undergraduate students facing revisions

Elizabeth Kaiser graphic

The Learning Outcomes for the General Education curriculum were last updated in 2012 and a new version of the outcomes were issued in 2016. The 2012 Learning Outcomes had 24 individual goals while the 2016 version had seven in total, each with several bullet-points attached.   

“The problem to be solved was making sure that students were exposed to all learning outcomes.” social sciences chair Travis Nelson said. 

Major revisions to the Learning Outcomes included stream-lining the bullet-points and mapping Learning Outcomes to specific classes. Now these Learning Outcomes are being put under review.

“We’re assessing across the board and making outcomes more accessible. We should be trying to tie these outcomes to job skills.” assistant biology professor John Peterson said.

The purpose of these revisions was to make the Learning Outcomes more practical in the university. However, questions of whether the Learning Outcomes were helping achieve UW-Platteville’s mission were raised. 

“These are institutional outcomes, not just general education.” biology professor Sharon Klavins said.

Another set of questions discussed was how the Learning Outcome and how the General Education curriculum itself were impacting students.

“If we want to justify that these things are important to students then we need to show them. Something is better than nothing and this is really difficult to do.” Peterson said.

A large part of the conversation was dedicated toward how to improve the impact that General Education Learning Outcomes would have on students. Specifically addressing how to engage students across the diverse fields offered by UW-Platteville. 

“These [Learning Outcomes] should be able to cross-over” assistant education professor Kameko Halfmann said.

One of the concerns raised about having widely applicable Learning Outcomes was losing how the Learning Outcomes could be applied specifically to each major. Each different college has unique skills to teach its students.

“Looking at life through the lens of art is different than looking at life through the lens of philosophy. It’s making an apples-to-oranges-to-elephants comparison.” Klavins said. 

A possible solution being considered is integrating the Learning Outcomes into existing classes for each major. This option is hoped to accommodate the needs of each college and to reach a majority of students. Given the current list of Learning Outcomes this solution is still only a possibility.

“Some [Learning Outcomes] map directly and some map indirectly” Nelson said.

The conflicting goals raised in the discussion are the result of the General Education department and UW-Platteville as a whole trying to shift from a content-based curriculum to a skill-based curriculum.

“We’re trying to shift faster than the other schools [in the UW-System] but it’s hard to shift until they do.” Peterson said.

Future conversations are planned to discuss the revisions of the General Education Learning Outcomes. There are still unresolved issues surrounding the changing needs of the UW-Platteville students.