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National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment

NILOA Guest Viewpoints

We’ve invited learning outcomes experts and thought leaders to craft a Viewpoint. We hope that these pieces will spark further conversations and actions that help advance the field. To join the conversation, click the link below the Viewpoint. You can also sign up here to receive monthly newsletters that headline these pieces along with NILOA updates, current news items, and upcoming conferences.


Student Learning Outcomes Alignment through Academic and Student Affairs Partnerships
Susan Platt,* Executive Director of Assessment, Student Affairs
Sharlene Sayegh,** Director, Program Review & Assessment, Academic Affairs
California State University, Long Beach


A significant challenge facing university campuses is how to develop the "whole student" whose entire curricular and co-curricular experience aligns with the achievement of the campus mission and learning outcomes. To accomplish this task, we truly need to consider the entire campus as a learning environment with curricular/co-curricular experiences equally vital for student success (Keeling, 2006).  But what are we actually doing as institutions to embrace these concepts? Are we merely saying the word "partnership" but still operating in silos? What are the bridges that can link Academic and Student Affairs and result in strategic partnerships?

As the campus assessment leaders in Academic Affairs and Student Affairs at our institution, we believe it is crucial to engage in reflective conversations with each other and colleagues about these questions to overcome common misperceptions and develop healthy partnerships focused on success of the whole student. It is imperative to create a strategic plan to strengthen collaborations across divisions and provide students with impactful, powerful learning experiences to meet institutional learning outcomes (ILOs).

Classic literature guides our collaborative efforts in the area of student learning outcomes, including Learning Reconsidered 2 (Keeling, 2006), ACPA’s The Student Learning Imperative (1996), AAC&U’s Greater Expectations (2002), and Tagg’s The Learning Paradigm (2003). Adrianna Kezar’s work describing characteristics of “highly collaborative campuses” (2006) has also influenced our collaborative model. In each of these works, the authors emphasize the importance of top institutional leaders who embrace curricular and co-curricular partnerships for student success. We are indeed fortunate that this is the case on our campus, as it has enabled us to establish vital and sustainable partnerships between Academic and Student Affairs that can only get better through time and effort.

How can Academic and Student Affairs Collaborate to Develop Levels of Student Learning Outcomes?

To collaboratively develop levels of learning outcomes, we first needed to conceptualize how our divisions approach student learning outcomes at multiple levels. We wanted to understand where opportunities might exist through an Academic Affairs/Student Affairs collaboration in which we take equal responsibility for student learning. We then developed a model in which we scaffolded the respective levels of learning outcomes:

Figure 1: Academic/Student Affairs: Learning Outcomes Alignment

Though this model helped us visually, we were not satisfied that it captured the full potential of our collaborations. We needed to create a forward-thinking plan with details of shared responsibilities that could provide students with learning opportunities for achieving ILOs.

Therefore, we thought about where we could most easily find common ground, and realized that we should focus on our Institutional Learning Outcomes and work backwards from these to provide students with learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom. We chose two upon which to focus: “critically and ethically engaged in global and local issues,” and “knowledgeable and respectful of the diversity of individuals, groups, and cultures.” We simplified these to read as “global engagement” and “diversity awareness.” Next, we wanted to take our model and create shared learning outcomes at each level for these two broad institutional outcomes. To develop these, the two of us held a series of working lunches and revised a set of learning outcomes until we felt comfortable that they were stated in measurable terms. Thus, we ended up with the following:

Scaffolded Learning Outcomes for Global Engagement

Figure 2: Academic Affairs and Student Affairs Collaborative Learning Outcomes for Global Engagement


Scaffolded Learning Outcomes for Diversity Awareness

Figure 3: Academic Affairs and Student Affairs Collaborative Learning Outcomes for Diversity Awareness

Next Steps: Inventory of Learning Opportunities and Curricular/Co-Curricular Mapping with Outcomes

Thus, we have four levels of stated learning outcomes for global engagement and diversity awareness percolating through the curriculum and co-curriculum. As a next step, we are creating an inventory of learning opportunities in courses, programs, and departments in Academic Affairs, and activities, programs, and services at the individual, unit, and team levels in Student Affairs that feature these broad outcomes. Then we will take our collective inventory and create a curricular/co-curricular map that looks something like this:

Learning Opportunities

Outcome 1

Outcome 2

Outcome 3

Outcome 4

Classroom X





Program X





Department X





Activity X





Unit X





Team X





Once we list actual learning opportunities in the left column and see which outcomes they align with, we can readily get a visual that tells us where the gaps are so we can make adjustments as necessary. Of course, the list of learning opportunities will be much more extensive than this illustration shows. Moreover, the essential part of our map is the ability to identify where we can bridge the curricular with the co-curricular, and offer a vast richness to student learning experiences that might not currently exist. We will continue to follow our strategic assessment plan. We will collect large-scale survey data from the CIRP Freshman Survey, NSSE, and Diverse Learning Environments to establish a baseline of knowledge concerning global engagement and diversity awareness.

In Sum

Creating bridges between Academic and Student Affairs takes time, but has the great benefit of engaging students in rich and diverse learning opportunities to achieve institutional learning outcomes.  We are convinced that through purposeful planning and persistence, it is possible to create an optimal campus learning environment that could not exist otherwise.

*Susan Platt is a WASC Assessment Leadership Alumnus from Cohort V.
**Sharlene Sayegh is a WASC Assessment Leadership Alumnus from Cohort III.


American College Personnel Association. (1996). The student learning imperative: Implications for student affairs. Alexandria, VA: Author.

Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) (2002). Greater expectations: A new vision for learning as a nation goes to college. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Keeling, R. P. (Ed.). (2006). Learning reconsidered 2: Implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, NACA, NACADA, NASPA, and NIRSA.

Kezar, A. (2006). Redesigning for collaboration in learning initiatives: An examination of four highly collaborative campuses. The Journal of Higher Education, 77 (5), 804-838.

Tagg, J. T. (2003). The learning paradigm college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Check out our past Viewpoints:

Student Learning Outcomes Alignment through Academic and Student Affairs Partnerships
Susan Platt and Sharlene Sayegh

The Transformation of Higher Education in America: Understanding the Changing Landscape
Michael Bassis

Learning-Oriented Assessment in Practice
David Carless

Moving Beyond Anarchy to Build a New Field
Hamish Coats

The Tools of Intentional Colleges and Universities: The DQP, ELOs, and Tuning
Paul L. Gaston, Trustees Professor, Kent State University

Addressing Assessment Fatigue by Keeping the Focus on Learning
George Kuh and Pat Hutchings, NILOA

Evidence of Student Learning: What Counts and What Matters for Improvement
Pat Hutchings, Jillian Kinzie, and George D. Kuh, NILOA

Using Evidence to Make a Difference
Stan Ikenberry and George Kuh, NILOA

Assessment - More than Numbers
Sheri Barrett

Challenges and Opportunities in Assessing the Capstone Experience in Australia
Nicolette Lee

Making Assessment Count
Maggie Bailey

Some Thoughts on Assessing Intercultural Competence
Darla K. Deardorff

Catalyst for Learning: ePortfolio-Based Outcomes Assessment
Laura M. Gambino and Bret Eynon

The Interstate Passport: A New Framework for Transfer
Peter Quigley, Patricia Shea, and Robert Turner

College Ratings: What Lessons Can We Learn from Other Sectors?
Nicholas Hillman

Guidelines to Consider in Being Strategic about Assessment
Larry A. Braskamp and Mark E. Engberg

An "Uncommon" View of the Common Core
Paul L. Gaston

Involving Undergraduates in Assessment: Documenting Student Engagement in Flipped Classrooms
Adriana Signorini & Robert Oschner

The Surprisingly Useful Practice of Meta-Assessment
Keston H. Fulcher & Megan Rodgers Good

Student Invovlement in Assessment: A 3-Way Win
Josie Welsh

Internships: Fertile Ground for Cultivating Integrative Learning
Alan W. Grose

What if the VSA Morphed into the VST?
George Kuh

Where is Culture in Higher Education Assessment and Evaluation?
Nora Gannon-Slater, Stafford Hood, and Thomas Schwandt

Embedded Assessment and Evidence-Based Curriculum Mapping: The Promise of Learning Analytics
Jane M. Souza

The DQP and the Creation of the Transformative Education Program at St. Augustine University
St. Augustine University

Why Student Learning Outcomes Assessment is Key to the Future of MOOCs

Wallace Boston & Jennifer Stephens

Measuring Success in Internationalization: What are Students Learning?
Madeleine F. Green

Demonstrating How Career Services Contribute to Student Learning
Julia Panke Makela & Gail S. Rooney

The Culture Change Imperative for Learning Assessment
Richard H. Hersh & Richard P. Keeling

Comments on the Commentaries about "Seven Red Herrings"
Roger Benjamin

Ethics and Assessment: When the Test is Life Itself
Edward L. Queen

Discussing the Data, Making Meaning of the Results
Anne Goodsell Love

Faculty Concerns About Student Learning Outcomes Assessment
Janet Fontenot

What to Consider When Selecting an Assessment Management System
R. Stephen RiCharde

AAHE Principles of Good Practice: Aging Nicely A Letter from Pat Hutchings, Peter Ewell, and Trudy Banta

The State of Assessment of Learning Outcomes Eduardo M. Ochoa

What is Satisfactory Performance? Measuring Students and Measuring Programs with Rubrics
Patricia DeWitt

Being Confident about Results from Rubrics Thomas P. Judd, Charles Secolsky & Clayton Allen

What Assessment Personnel Need to Know About IRBs
Curtis R. Naser

How Assessment and Institutional Research Staff Can Help Faculty with Student Learning Outcomes Assessment
Laura Blasi

Why Assess Student Learning? What the Measuring Stick Series Revealed
Gloria F. Shenoy

Putting Myself to the Test
Ama Nyamekye

From Uniformity to Personalization: How to Get the Most Out of Assessment
Peter Stokes

Transparency Drives Learning at Rio Salado College
Vernon Smith

Navigating a Perfect Storm
Robert Connor

Avoiding a Tragedy of the Commons in Postsecondary Education
Roger Benjamin

In Search for Standard of Quality
Michael Bassis

It is Time to Make our Academic Standards Clear
Paul E. Lingenfelter