An SLO Terminology Glossary: A Draft in Progress

Chair, Accreditation and SLO Committee

With the introduction of the 2002 Accreditation Standards, California community college faculty tentatively waded into the waters of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and assessment. At a Spring 2009 plenary breakout session, some preliminary results were presented from a recent survey of SLO coordinators conducted by the Academic Senate's Accreditation and SLO Committee. In the survey, which will be more fully reported in a forthcoming Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) paper, most of the respondents stated that their colleges had waded into the SLO waters by 2008. Most had reached the "development stage" of the Accrediting Commission for Junior and Community Colleges (ACCJC) rubric on Student Learning Outcomes and looked forward to reaching the proficiency stage by 2012 (see p. 3,… ). As faculty members have increased their participation in SLOs and assessment, some confusion has arisen in terminology, especially as they collaborated with their college institutional researchers.

At the Spring 2008 Plenary Session, a resolution was passed to address this confusion. Resolution 2.02 S08 read:

Whereas, There is some confusion regarding definitions of key terms relevant to student learning outcomes and assessment; and

Whereas, There is no consensus across the state as to what defines a "program" and this directly impacts student learning outcomes and assessment practices;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges address the confusion in the field by researching and developing a glossary of common terms for student learning outcomes and assessment.

A collaborative group comprised of members of the Academic Senate's Accreditation and SLO Committee and the Research and Planning Group for the California Community Colleges (RP Group) developed an initial draft of this glossary early in 2009. The first draft of the glossary largely reflects expertise culled from articles and books written by educators and practitioners in the fields of student learning and assessment. (A copy of the Draft Glossary is available at… ). Moreover, the Academic Senate has prior working definitions that were also incorporated into this draft. (See The 2002 Accreditation Standards: Implementation (adopted Fall 2004), pp. 5, 19-21, and Working with the 2002 Accreditation Standards: The Faculty's Role (adopted Spring 2005), p. 12. )

Over the course of the past year since the resolution was passed, with the turnover in SLO coordinators, the increased working relationship between SLO coordinators and institutional researchers at many colleges, and the need for all faculty as well as entire campus communities to engage in SLO development and assessment, it has become clear that the necessity for a glossary extends to all persons engaged in these discussions.

The goal of the glossary is to provide a common language and an important resource for faculty, including the SLO coordinators, and institutional researchers. As SLO development and assessment move toward proficiency, the entire campus community needs to communicate. Thus, the glossary, while largely intended initially for the SLO coordinators and institutional researchers, becomes critical for the entire college community as a means to dialogue effectively about student learning, student learning outcomes, and assessment.

The process for refining this glossary began with the SLO coordinators and institutional researchers. The glossary has been vetted by these groups via the Senate's Accreditation and SLO Committee and at the SLO Regional meetings held in March 2009. Members of the Academic Senate Executive Committee, who approved the first reading of the draft for further discussion, and attendees at the SLO Institute in July will also be asked for their input, as well as any of you who wish to participate. During the summer and early fall, the Accreditation and SLO Committee and the Academic Senate-RP Group collaborative will discuss and incorporate needed terms and edits, such as clarifying the use of multiple seemingly interchangeable terms. Where possible examples will be provided to help the field better understand the concepts. The glossary will return to the Academic Senate Executive Committee for a second reading in the fall and then will be shared with the field for approval at the Fall 2009 Plenary Session.

Ultimately local senates and faculty are the ones to determine which definitions they will use or modify. For instance, to clarify reports and self studies, local senates can define their own terms and reference their language to the glossary in order to make their processes clear. Thus, while the proposed glossary is in response to a resolution, choice of terminology remains locally controlled.