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Connecting to Institution Wide Learning Outcomes

Pacific's undergraduate curriculum includes general education learning outcomes and core competencies, which are institution-wide learning outcomes that contribute to curricular coherence. Pacific's core competencies describe what any undergraduate will be expected to be able to demonstrate, on demand, by the time they graduate. Pacific's general education learning outcomes intentionally include a significant overlap with the core competencies and are designed to broaden self-understanding, citizenship, and career development.

Of particular note, in the third required Pacific Seminar (PACS III) in general education, all seniors are assessed on Critical Thinking and Written Communication, which reinforces their broad liberal arts experience and a corresponding integration of general education and core competencies. Nonetheless, general education is largely comprised of lower-division courses, so Pacific systematically extends teaching and assessment of the core competencies beyond general education. Pacific assesses the core competencies in two ways.

  • First, faculty in undergraduate degree programs articulate the overlap of  their program learning outcomes with the university-wide core competencies in an outcome-by-competence crosswalk, which enables them to fold teaching for the core competencies into their curriculum-embedded assessment of their program learning outcomes. This assists Pacific in monitoring and addressing the level of instructional coverage of the core competencies across programs. 
  • Second, to provide more calibrated measurement of student achievement of the core competencies, the University Assessment Committee coordinates additional university wide assessment of the core competencies. These university-wide assessments include or sample all undergraduate majors and provide systematic evidence about the degree to which seniors have met faculty standards for the core competencies, as well as the degree to which they have continued to meet faculty standards for those general education outcomes that overlap with these competencies. Students are understandably most attentive to specified requirements for an assignment and its assessment, so faculty in their syllabi, rubrics, and classroom instruction draw the learner's attention to the broader learning outcomes to which the specific assignment requirements connect.


Faculty take on a number of challenges when they teach for learning outcomes that have these nested relationships and developmental trajectories.

  • First, they must work to get students to take courses in appropriate developmental sequence so that the students' experience of the curriculum is commensurate with its design. (see curriculum mapping)
  • Second, faculty must articulate the intended program learning outcomes and their assessment so that these are commensurate with the level of the course. One student friendly strategy is to break apart an integrated program learning outcome into accessible/assessable components. This assists students early in the curriculum to see how they are working on one aspect of a learning outcome and to foresee how they, as seniors, will be expected to demonstrate the same learning outcome in its full and more meaningful complexity.
  • Third, faculty must communicate to students how the explicit criteria and standards for performance in the assignment connect to the broader learning outcomes that make the degree in the major meaningful.         
  • Fourth, faculty need to distinguish instructions for an assignment, which are about required standard format for an assignment (for example, "two pages in length with at least two references"), from the learning outcome being assessed (for example, "summarize in writing research findings for an audience in the discipline"). This assists students to conceptualize how their immediate work on the assignment is building their broader capacity to be similarly effective across varying contexts.
  • Resources: A Framework for Developing and Using Student Friendly Program Learning Outcomes