Program Learning Outcomes

Learning outcomes describe the knowledge, competencies, and skills a student is expected to learn as a result of participating in academic activities or through academic experiences. Program Learning Outcomes (PLOs) are targeted student learning outcomes which describe the core competencies that graduates of an academic program are expected to achieve. 

Program Learning Outcomes Assessment

Learning Outcomes Assessment is the process of collecting and analyzing information that will tell an institution whether the educational activities and experiences it offers are having the desired impact on  the students who partake in them.  In other words, is the institution making a difference in the lives of the individuals it serves? Program Learning Outcomes Assessment focuses on the learning experiences that lead to the success of program graduates in achieving educational and career goals. Learning outcomes data gathered as part of the Program Learning Outcomes Assessment process are incorporated into the broader academic program review process. 

Program Learning Outcomes Assessment Mission

At Clinton Community College, the Program Learning Outcomes Assessment mission is to improve and support student learning by systematically evaluating student performance using agreed upon program-specific student learning outcomes.  Student Learning Outcomes Assessment is cyclical with three phases:  1) Planning, 2) Implementing, and 3) Reflecting on assessment results and making improvements.  


Program Learning Outcomes Assessment follows a 3-year cycle with the following three phases:

In the initial planning stage, the SLOAC works with the program faculty to create a program learning outcomes assessment plan. The first step of this process is to develop (for new programs) or modify (as needed for existing programs) the program learning outcomes that describe the core competencies that graduates of the academic program are expected to achieve. These outcomes are aligned with the program mission and goals. The targeted learning outcomes are integrated with the list of required program courses by means of a curriculum map to help determine the course(s) in which the learning outcomes can best be measured. The program learning outcomes are also mapped to the institutional learning outcomes to identify any gaps in core competencies. After solidifying the program learning outcomes, faculty develop an assessment matrix which aligns objectives to be measured with the established program learning outcomes and indicates the assessment measure to be used, the criteria for assignment to each of the achievement levels, the person responsible, and the semester in which the learning outcomes will be assessed. In subsequent cycles, the information is reviewed and updated as needed. Program learning outcomes assessment plans are housed in an internal Program Learning Outcomes Assessment SharePoint site. 

Program Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan Template

The implementation phase is ongoing and involves the collection and analysis of student learning outcomes data. The target is to assess every program learning outcome at least once in a three-year cycle. The number of students who have exceeded, met, or failed to meet the standard set by the program faculty is recorded for each objective in the Program Learning Outcomes Assessment Matrix. 

After recording the results of the assessment, program faculty discuss the data and indicate in the Actions column of the Program Learning Outcomes Assessment Matrix the actions, if any, that will be taken as a result of the assessment. 

  1. Faculty are best suited to determine the program goals and learning outcomes, how to assess them, and how to use the results.
  2. Results will be used to improve academic programs and experiences, not to assess individual faculty members.
  3. Assessment plans will be manageable in size with a plan in place to assess all student learning outcomes within a 3-year cycle.
  4. Assessment results will be used to inform the Strategic Planning Committee of academic needs.
  5. Assessment Plans are living documents that are able to be revised at any phase of the assessment process in order to provide more meaningful assessment.
  6. Student Learning Outcomes fit within the campus-wide culture of assessment carried out at the course, programmatic, and institutional-levels.

When student learning outcomes assessment is done in a meaningful and systematic way, it benefits all facets of the institution from students, to faculty, to administration. 

For students, PLO Assessment will:

  • communicate clear expectations about what is important in a degree program or certificate
  • inform them that they will be evaluated in a consistent and transparent way
  • reassure them that there is common core content across all sections of a course

For faculty, participating in PLO Assessment will:

  • help them determine what is working and what is not working in their courses or programs
  • facilitate valuable interdisciplinary and intercampus discussions
  • provide powerful evidence to justify needed resources to maintain or improve programs
  • provide reassurance that all faculty teaching a particular required course have agreed to address certain core content
  • allow them to make improvements based on data and not just anecdotal evidence

For administrators, implementing PLO Assessment will:

  • demonstrate an institutional commitment to continually improving the academic programs and services offered by the College
  • provide valuable data to support requests for funds from state and local government and private donors
  • demonstrate accountability to funding sources
  • provide valuable data for academic planning and decision-making
  • enable them to inform elected officials, local businesses, and potential donors about the College‚Äôs impact on our students and our community in a very compelling and convincing way

Moore Bldg., 5th Floor
Room 549M
Phone: 518-562-4391

Maggie Courson
Student Learning Outcomes
Assessment Coordinator