Graduate Student Learning Outcomes

Scope:  Who is Covered by this Policy?

Graduate Students


Learning Outcomes

In order to have quality graduate education, individual courses must have learning outcomes that are appropriate for graduate students. Learning outcomes should emphasize the application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation levels of cognitive learning (see Bloom, 1956 for additional information on levels of learning). Graduate education “involves a greater depth of learning, increased specialization, and a more advanced level of instruction than undergraduate education” (CCGS Guidelines, p. 3). Furthermore, CCGS guidelines state that, “In the event that a graduate course is co-listed with an advanced undergraduate course, the approval process should require clearly defined expectations of graduate students that go well beyond the expectations of the undergraduates in the course.”

Higher levels of originality and independence are expected in graduate work compared to undergraduate work (c.f., Lumina Foundation Degree Qualifications Profile). In combined courses, the content of learning outcomes will most often be the same for undergraduates and graduate students, but graduate students should be expected to achieve higher levels of learning for the content. The level of learning is most often communicated through the verbs used in assessing learning outcomes. Examples of terms that reflect different levels of learning are presented in Bloom’s Taxonomy of Measurable Verbs and are articulated in the following distinctions, which may be modified as needed in different disciplines.

Students will demonstrate:

At the 400 level:

Familiarity with content in subject area; development of independent thought; and knowledge of the research literature;

At the 500 level:

Development of competency in subject area; advanced level of independent thought; understanding of research literature, and ability to synthesize and apply it;

At the 600 level:

Development of content mastery; independent thought in subjects of increased complexity; critical understanding of research, and ability to contribute to the creation of new knowledge.

Learning Outcomes in Online Courses

Online courses should follow the same guidelines as traditional courses with regard to student learning outcomes. In addition, online courses should minimally receive a Quality Matters review or evaluation.

References on Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook I:Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay.
  2. Chancellor’s Committee of Graduate Schools Guidelines.
  3. Degree Qualifications Profile by the Lumina Foundation.
  4. Quality Matters

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Reference ID

Graduate Handbook 6.2

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