Revising or creating program educational goals module 2: Drafting educational program goals
Part of a series of modules supporting UD faculty who are revising or developing program educational goals.
After successfully completing this module, you will be able to:
- Create aspirational goals for your degree program
- Describe common characteristics of good program educational goals
- Draft program educational goals for your degree program
Steps and recommended actions
1. Create aspirational goals for your degree program
Recommended action: Draft aspirational goals using the provided worksheet.
After gathering resources and agreeing to a basic plan of work – all done in Module 1 – is is helpful to begin the substantive work of revising or drafting program educational goals by brainstorming the goals of an ideal program freed from the constraints of the existing program. If you could start over and had all of the resources you could possibly want, what would you want students to learn in this program?
This brief activity can inform the more focused, realistic work of revising or creating PEGs by providing a common touchstone of aspirations. Some of the aspirational goals may be much more attainable and realistic than some participants realize. Others may be possible to incorporate with some modification. Others may provide guidance for future work that goes beyond what is expected of this particular team.
Reviewing the resources gathered in Module 1, especially examples of goals from other institutions and relevant scholarly materials about shared goals in the discipline, can be particularly helpful for this activity. Ensure that everyone in the team has access to those resources.
2. Compare available examples of program educational goals to develop a shared understanding of good goals
Recommended actions: Review examples of program educational goals, including some provided by CTAL (i.e., example 1 and example 2 showing two different versions of goals for the same program) and those collected during module 1. Explicitly note the shared characteristics of goals you collectively determine are good.
It is critical that faculty teams engaged in this work have a shared understanding of what an educational and what makes a particular goal a good one. Purposefully examining examples and discussing specific parts of them that team members believe are especially good (“we should include something like that!”) or bad (“we have to avoid including anything like this!”) can be a very helpful way of establishing this shared understanding.
During these discussions, it is critical that team members explain why they believe that particular goals or parts of these examples are especially good or bad. It is very important to identify the commonalities in these why statements to generalize beyond this collection of specific examples – those are the ideas that you can likely follow when you revise or create your goals.
3. Review the criteria and descriptions in CTAL's PEGs rubric
Recommended action: Compare your individual and collective understanding of the characteristics of good PEGs with the criteria and descriptions in CTAL’s program educational goals rubric.
Just as you and your colleagues have collected examples and reviewed relevant literature and resources to determine common characteristics of “good” program educational goals, so too have your colleagues in CTAL. We have drawn from a large pool of interdisciplinary literature and many examples to develop our own set of characteristics that a really good set of PEGs should possess:
- Clearly state the expected knowledge, skills, attitudes, competencies, and habits of mind that students are expected to acquire in the specific degree program.
- Describe actions, products, or behaviors that can be observed and evaluated using appropriate disciplinary standards.
- Appropriately incorporate and reinforce educational goals from the university, college, co-curricular, and appropriate disciplinary values.
- Reflect a course of study that is appropriately rigorous for the students admitted to the program.
- Reflect a course of study that students are able to complete within the average or a reasonable time-to-degree for that program.
We have summarized these characteristics in a rubric for evaluating program educational goals. This rubric includes further explanation of each criterion as well as a set of descriptions for what each criterion looks like in a very good set of PEGs.
In addition to reviewing this rubric, it is also helpful to compare it with the set of characteristics and other notes that you and your colleagues compiled when examining materials and examples specific to your program and discipline. Is there anything missing from the CTAL rubric that should be added for your specific program? Was there anything that you didn’t see in your materials and examples that the CTAL rubric has brought to light?
4. Draft program educational goals for your program
Recommended action: Use the available worksheet with guiding questions to draft revised or new program educational goals for your program.
Now that you have examined what is already published about your program in the academic catalog, discussed aspirational goals, compared examples of program educational goals for related programs at other institutions, reviewed discipline-specific materials, and developed a common understanding of the characteristics of good goals, it’s finally time to revise your existing goals or write new ones. We have created a worksheet for this important work with guiding questions based on our rubric.
At this stage, there are a few common questions:
- How many goals should my program have? There is no universal answer to this question. In many cases, 5-7 goals seems to be the right number to capture the breadth of a program with appropriate depth for an entire degree program. Sometimes faculty have to include many more goals as dictated by disciplinary norms and expectations, often encoded by accreditation standards that dictate a common set of program goals.
- How do we know if a particular goal is appropriate for the entire program (as opposed to being a goal for one or more courses or other learning experiences)? Typically, a goal is appropriate for the entire program if it’s addressed in multiple learning experiences e.g., courses, required or recommended internship, dissertation. A curriculum map should help answer this question. Keep in mind that what is appropriate for a program educational goal for one program may not be appropriate for another program, particularly in cases where a program utilizes or builds on skills, knowledge, and tools from another program or discipline e.g., “Employ quantitative tools and techniques to …” may be appropriate for a program where scholars or practitioners only make use of quantitative reasoning but a program focused on developing new quantitative tools and techniques may require multiple program educational goals that address this topic at a deeper, more granular level.
- Examples of program educational goals for discussion and comparison: Example 1 and Example 2
- Learning goals
- Categories of learning goals: Lists of common learning goals organized into three categories (knowledge and understanding, thinking skills, other kinds) from Linda Suskie’s 2004 book Assessing student learning: A common sense guide.
- Table of goals by level: Examples of how goals at the program and course level should interrelate. Also from Suskie (2004) Assessing student learning: A common sense guide.
- University of Delaware General Education Objectives: The educational objectives that the University of Delaware has for all undergraduate students. More information can be found on the UD General Education website.
- Verbs for significant learning: Another listing of common learning goals with commonly used verbs and categories. Adapted from “Example Action Verbs for Each Dimension of Learning,” Teacher & Educational Development, University of Mexico School of Medicine, 2005.
- Program educational goals rubric: Using the available literature and our own experienes, we have created this rubric for evaluating program educational goals. Its five criteria – clearly stated, observable, integrated, rigorous, and realistic – and the descriptions of different levels of each criterion are helpful for faculty to use in evaluating their own (draft or final) goals.
- Worksheet: Aspirational goals: It is often helpful for teams creating or revising program educationals to discuss the goals they would like their program to have if they were freed from all practical constraints. This can provide helpful ideas and a common foundation for the practical work that follows.
- Worksheet: Program educational goals for <program>: This worksheet includes helpful questions – based on our PEGs rubric – that guide the refinement or development of program educational goals.