Alignment of Student Learner Outcomes
“As a student-centered institution, Southern regards student success as its highest priority. We seek to instill in all of our students the value of the liberal arts and sciences as a foundation for professional development and life-long learning. Our students receive exemplary professional training and are inspired by the research, scholarship, and creative activity of our teacher-scholars” (Discover Southern: A Strategic Plan for Southern Connecticut State University 2015-2025).
Consistent with the university’s approach to student success, the university’s Liberal Education Program (LEP) was designed to create learning experiences that are structured around three overarching questions:
- What should an educated citizen be able to do? (Competencies)
- What should an educated citizen know? (Areas of Knowledge and Experience)
- With what values should an educated citizen be familiar? (Discussions of Values)
Each course in the program has at least one Area of Knowledge and Experience, attends to at least one major Competency, and presents at least one Discussion of Values. Including all three groups in every course provides program coherence (The Liberal Education Program at Southern, 2009).
The Liberal Education Program (LEP) is characterized by concretely articulated goals, curricular coherence, and assessment and review. Other characteristics include a dynamic and amendable approach, oversight, and flexibility (The Liberal Education Program at Southern, 2009). The LEP promotes specific learning outcomes, which allow concrete and consistent measurement. Upon completion of the LEP, students will be able to:
- Analyze and solve complex problems.
- Cogently and articulately express ideas in speaking and in writing.
- Demonstrate academic habits of mind (e.g., time management, future orientation, study and research skills).
- Think independently and creatively from an informed understanding.
- Demonstrate ability to synthesize learning throughout the LEP curriculum, through application to a culminating experience or project.
- Apply the standards and ethics required to enter into the professional world.
- Articulate/evaluate multiple perspectives on an issue, acknowledging the potential for complexity and ambiguity.
- Engage in the integration of informational resources and technology.
Southern determines at regular intervals how well, faithfully, and completely the university promotes student learning. The university has a systematic approach to the assessment of student learning. This approach promotes academic excellence and improves academic program quality. As a result, the university is able to make curricular and programmatic changes based on evidence. In this way, the university models to the students a sense of curiosity and self-growth.
Southern’s innovative Liberal Education Program is continually evaluated to make sure that students are learning and progressing as expected. LEP’s aim is to promote students’ mastery of such competencies as critical thinking, information literacy, multilingual communication, oral communication, quantitative reasoning, technological fluency, and written communication. These competencies are desired by employers. Interdisciplinary teams of faculty have collaborated to develop assessments to measure how well the university is promoting these competencies among the students. LEP also addresses areas of knowledge and experience (American experience, natural world, cultural expressions, global awareness, etc.) that educated citizens are expected to know. The LEP evaluation of students’ mastery of competencies and areas of knowledge contributes to planning program revisions and individual course improvements.
The list of "key elements" (learner outcomes) of each LEP component provides the alignment between the campus-level student learner outcome statements and the program- and course-level student learner outcome statements. In the Undergraduate Curriculum Forum’s Course Proposal Form, professors indicate how the proposed course will meet each key element of the selected competency. For example, the competency known as multilingual communication has five key elements: language proficiency, cultural and linguistic awareness, communities, connections, and critical analysis. A description of each learner outcome appears in the LEP Document. Similarly, there are five learner outcomes for competency in written communication: argument comprehension, argument construction, academic honesty, audience awareness, and correctness. A course may be taught by multiple instructors who may choose to address the key elements in different ways and/or use different Embedded Competencies, Areas of Knowledge, or Discussion(s) of Values for their sections.
Assessments of student work in courses and programs are linked to campus-level learner outcomes. For example, competency in “analyzing and solving complex problems” incorporates aspects of both critical thinking and quantitative reasoning. Since Southern participates in the Multi-State Collaborative to Advance Quality Student Learning (MSC), the final papers of freshmen and seniors are scored by faculty in other states using AAC&U’s rubrics for critical thinking, quantitative literacy, and written communication. The following sections show how assessments of students’ progress are linked to campus-level learner outcomes.
For every aspect of the Liberal Education Program (the general education program),
“key elements” or learner outcomes have been articulated.
To prepare students to think creatively by engaging them in a process that generates new
ideas. This ability leads students to fresh insights and perspectives, novel approaches to
problems, and new ways of understanding, and it is a prerequisite for excellence in all of
the academic disciplines, especially in a rapidly changing society.
- Articulation of Objectives - Identifying an issue, problem, or idea to which
innovative and/or original solutions or outcomes may be applied.
- Idea Generation - Posing questions and challenging presuppositions in order to
expand the horizons of possible solutions and to make connections among different
- Analysis - Reflecting on and examining the alternative approaches generated for the
question or problem that lead to seeing things in imaginative ways and creating new
solutions or resolutions.
- Synthesis - Concretely illustrating how the new ideas resolve the original question.
- Evaluation – Considering the success of one’s solutions to a problem or the value
To prepare students to identify problems and to think effectively about their solutions,
both of which require making good arguments and critically assessing information. These
skills are necessary for active learning and independent thinking; they also are essential
for academic success and good decision-making in students’ personal, professional, and
Using real world problems, the course will provide instruction in:
- Logical Argumentation – Identifying various types of arguments, analyzing
components of arguments, and formulating good arguments, including a significant
focus on inductive reasoning.
- Evaluation – Identifying assumptions, and assessing the quality and reliability of
sources of evidence, and learning the criteria for evaluating the success of each kind
- Analysis – Breaking concepts and assertions down into components and identifying
the interrelations of these parts in order to ascertain the defining features of the
concepts and the meaning of assertions.
- Synthesis – Drawing together disparate claims into a coherent whole in order to
arrive at well-reasoned and well-supported inferences.
To provide students with the ability to recognize when information is needed and to
locate, evaluate, and use information effectively. In their academic, professional, personal
and civic endeavors, students face an expanding quantity of information from sources of
uncertain quality and have an increasing number of tools available to them for
information retrieval and evaluation.
- Determination of Needs – Defining and articulating the information needed and
identifying potential information sources.
- Retrieval – Efficiently constructing and implementing well-designed search
strategies, refining the search strategies, and extracting, organizing, and recording
the information and its sources.
- Critical Evaluation – Assessing the quality and relevance of the information and the
reliability of its sources.
- Ethical and Legal Issues – Understanding the many ethical and legal issues
surrounding the use of information and the application of information technology.
- Incorporation – Appropriately using the processes of acquiring, questioning,
analyzing and synthesizing information.
To help students develop a capacity to interact successfully with others. In the twentyfirst
century, the ability to work collaboratively is a necessity and has become one of the
characteristics of an educated person.
- Teamwork – Contributing, interacting, and making compromises in pursuit of a
- Empathic Listening – Hearing and responding to others with thoughtfulness,
courtesy and respect.
- Communication – Clearly articulating a coherent point of view.
- Responsibility – Following through on commitments.
- Integrity -- Adhering to ethical principles in interactions with others.
To develop students’ proficiency in a language and create awareness of cultures other
than their own. These capacities enhance the students' ability to think critically about
themselves in relation to others, to appreciate the complexity of language and the richness
of cultures, and to live as informed and responsible citizens in an increasingly
- Language Proficiency - Participating in interpersonal, presentational, and
interpretive modes of communication at the following levels as defined by the
standards of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL):
western language – intermediate low; non-western language - novice high.
- Cultural and Linguistic Awareness - Making informed comparisons of one's own and
another culture, including cultural values and linguistic diversity, and making
informed comparisons across languages, including one's native language, which may
include dialectical, stylistic, and syntactic variation.
- Communities - Acquiring tools necessary to continue developing language
proficiency and cultural understanding and to approach other unfamiliar languages
and cultures, using the target language beyond the classroom setting.
- Connections - Connecting a developing cultural understanding to other fields of
study and to other aspects of one's life.
- Critical analysis - Analyzing products of the target culture, such as visual arts,
literature, music and performing arts, as well as everyday cultural practices and
perspectives, such as cultural attitudes toward food, clothing, transportation and the
To provide students with the tools to express themselves coherently and cogently in faceto-face
interactions. In the twenty-first century, students must be able to interact
effectively in the community and in the workplace to succeed in their professional,
personal, and community roles.
- Oral Interactions - Engaging in oral interactions to accurately convey or obtain
information, to express feelings in an appropriate manner, and to exchange ideas.
- Effective Listening - Understanding and interpreting language concerning a wide
variety of subjects in an accurate and meaningful fashion.
- Presentation and Audience - Effectively presenting information and ideas to diverse
audiences using appropriate technology
To enable students to recognize, understand, and use the quantitative elements they may
encounter in various aspects of their lives, to foster abstract quantitative thought, to build
self-confidence, and to appreciate the beauty and power of quantitative reasoning.
Increasingly, success in modern life, academic disciplines, and career paths depends upon
- Quantitative Situations – Identifying the essential quantitative elements in both
routine and novel situations and understanding the relationships between those
quantitative elements, and producing mathematical models appropriate for the
intended analysis (e.g., writing equation(s) to represent the situation).
- Quantitative Data – Representing quantitative information in both technical and
common language by using symbolic, graphical, and tabular formats, and drawing
correct inferences from quantitative information through the interpretations of such
- Methods - Acquiring the tools and methods necessary to resolve both routine and
novel quantitative questions, including a correct sequencing of procedures, and using
them appropriately, given the nature and constraints of a situation. In addition to
using knowledge previously acquired in intermediate algebra, students will
demonstrate proficiency with information presented in numerical or statistical form
and mathematical concepts of growth and decay with their applications (e.g., linear,
quadratic, exponential, etc.).
- Reliability of Data and Solutions – Correctly evaluating the level of accuracy stated
or implied for given data, and assessing the correctness and accuracy of an analysis,
including the assessment of the method and model used and the reasonableness of
- Mathematical Process – Using discovery (e.g., exploration and pattern-recognition),
conjecture, and testing to develop mathematical formulas, theorems, and then giving
persuasive mathematical arguments to establish their validity.
To provide students fluency in contemporary and emerging technologies that transform
the way we work, and to prepare them to respond to future technological changes. In
today’s highly technological society, comfort with and fluency in rapidly evolving
technology provide students with a competitive edge professionally and with important
tools for social interaction and collaboration.
- Common Tasks – Solving problems, accessing information, and communicating
information and ideas using appropriate technologies.
- Focus – Using emergent or recently developed technologies (hardware or software)
to address specialized tasks.
- Future Technological Change - Navigating and adapting to future technological
- Broader Implications – Being cognizant of ethical and social implications of
revolutionary technologies, including but not limited to their impact on security,
privacy, censorship, intellectual property, and the reliability of information.
To provide students with the tools to comprehend what they read, to discover new ideas,
to refine their thinking, and to express their thoughts cogently in writing. In our
contemporary society, the capacity to grapple with complex thoughts and to communicate
effectively in written form is of ever-increasing importance to students’ personal,
professional, academic, and public lives.
- Argument Comprehension - Summarizing, analyzing, and challenging sophisticated
texts by evaluating evidence and the validity of an author’s claims.
- Argument Construction - Making a coherent written argument that gives background
information, presents a reasonable claim, and uses a range of evidence to support the
- Academic Honesty - Avoiding plagiarism by properly using primary and secondary
sources, including paraphrase, summary, and accurate citations (in an appropriate
- Audience Awareness - Using the conventions of multiple genres to communicate
effectively with particular audiences.
- Correctness – Demonstrating control over standard English language usage
(grammar, spelling, tone, style, semantics, and syntax) and revising for accuracy,
clarity and depth
To develop a broad understanding of the society, politics, and culture of the United States
and in particular its historical and contemporary diversity. This knowledge enables
students to become informed and engaged citizens and provides a social and historical
context to their lives.
American experience courses should contain exposure to all of the below with emphasis
on at least one.
- Historical Development – Examining the evolution of American society, culture,
and/or politics and interconnections among them.
- Diversity in American Experience – Understanding the roles of many different
peoples in creating the American experience including non-majority perspectives.
- America’s Relationship with the World – Exploring historical and recent issues
concerning America’s interactions with the world (e.g., immigration, globalization,
To prepare students to think creatively through significant hands-on practice with a
process that generates new conceptions and reveals new interpretations. Creativity is the
well-spring of invention and delight.
- Articulation of Project - Identifying a concept and a medium.
- Development of Project – Using creative thinking: examining different strategies or
designs that will lead to accomplishing the project; selecting and refining the most
productive strategies through constant self-reflection.
- Presentation of Project – Displaying or performing the project publicly.
- Creative Process and Exemplars – Examining the creative process itself as both an
inspirational and problem solving endeavor; examining exemplary works.
To develop the students’ understanding of and aesthetic appreciation for influential
cultural objects and traditions. This understanding will enable students to expand their
own aesthetic sensibilities and enhance their encounters with cultural works.
- Aesthetic Evaluation – Encountering historical and/or contemporary genres of
- Analytical Skills – Thinking critically and analytically about cultural expressions.
- Cultural Significance – Examining social, historical, and aesthetic contexts of
To acquaint students with perspectives on current world affairs not centered in the
American experience. To be effective citizens, students need to know and understand the
conditions of others around the globe and the relationships and connections between self,
local surroundings, and the broader world.
- Area or Phenomenon Outside the United States – Understanding a specific
geographical region or phenomenon of international significance (e.g., the Middle
East, sustainability, or globalization).
- Contemporary Implications – Gaining significant insight into contemporary world
- Non-U.S. Perspectives – Exploring non-American points of view and ways of life.
Mind and Body
To develop students’ understanding of various conceptions of the self and awareness of
the self as a developing entity. This will enrich students’ appreciation of their own
personal identity and help them make effective and meaningful decisions about their
- Conceptions of the Individual – Examining multiple ways that different disciplines
and/or cultures define the self.
- Growth – Studying the development of the individual in response to both internal
and external forces.
- Mind-Body Connection – Understanding conceptual and experiential interrelations
between mental and physical aspects of the self.
- Focus – Exploring deeply at least one approach to understanding the self (including
but not limited to physical, psychological, religious, and philosophical).
To familiarize students with science as a method of inquiry and to raise their awareness
of the role science plays in the world. The ability to accurately and objectively articulate
the scientific underpinnings of important complex issues is essential in a society that
increasingly depends on science and technology.
- Scientific Inquiry – Understanding the nature of scientific inquiry in general and
use of the scientific method as a basic inquiry tool.
- Body of Scientific Principles – Learning a coherent body of scientific knowledge.
- Significant Lab or Field Experience – Collecting and analyzing scientific data in
laboratory or field setting using reasonable scientific protocols.
- Quantitative Methods – Using, understanding, and analyzing numerical data to make
reasonable inferences and interpretations.
- Relevance to Contemporary Societal Issues – Understanding the scientific
components of some important world issues (for example, biodiversity loss, genetic
engineering, global climate change, land use and planning, resource depletion, or
Social Structure, Conflict, and Consensus
To develop student understanding of social conflicts and their sources, and of possible
means for seeking resolution. An understanding of the relationships among competing
interest groups, power dynamics, conflicts, and potential resolutions of such conflicts is
necessary to engage with a diverse society.
- Institutions and Power Dynamics – Understanding the normative structure, function
and historical context of institutions (e.g., family, government, economy, education
or religion, etc.), and how social power influences and is influenced by them.
- Sources of Social Conflict – Examining how social conflicts evolve.
- Variety of Perspectives – Recognizing the role of multiple perspectives in
understanding conflict and seeking consensus.
- Specific Social Conflict – Exploring extensively at least one significant social
Time and Place
To appreciate the rich variation in human perspectives on the human experience and on
nature. Exposure to such perspectives fosters a more cosmopolitan view of the world and
provides an important context for the students’ understanding of themselves and their
own time and place.
- Focus – Examining a specific time and/or place with an emphasis on continuity and
- Perspective – Encountering unique viewpoints associated with that time or place.
- Significance – Understanding the relevance of such perspectives to students’ lives
Student Learner Outcome Pages
- Characteristics of Southern's assessment system
- Assessment process
- Alignment of Student Learner Outcomes
- A coherent system: Linking the multiple layers of assessment activities
- Current assessment activities
- Benchmarks and comparison with peers
- List of peer institutions
- Sharing results
- What students gain from a Southern education