Developing or Revising Program Educational Goals

Each degree-granting academic program has a unique set of program educational goals. These goals are defined and assessed by the faculty in each program.

2021-2023 Collection of Program Educational Goals

In the writing of our 2021 Middle States Self-Study, we realized that these goals and assessments are not being systematically documented across the university. The Task Force on Learning Goals & Assessment recommended that the goals be collected by the Faculty Senate and published in the academic catalog. Several committees of the Faculty Senate agreed with this recommendation and approved a resolution in the spring of 2020 requiring that accredited programs submit their educational goals to the senate.

These goals are being published in the academic catalog and the faculty control the contents of the catalog so these goals are being submitted to the relevant Faculty Senate committee – Undergraduate or Graduate Studies – via Curriculog for senate approval prior to publication. CTAL is assisting the committee in reviewing the submitted goals and working with programs who need or request help or advice. Full details about these processes have been shared with chairs and directors. This is a two-year process that began in the fall of 2021 and is intended to be complete by the spring of 2023.

Goals approved by the Faculty Senate in 2021-2022 have been published in the current academic catalog. This document summarizes the number of goals that were approved in 2021-2022; full details about the status of specific programs are available in this spreadsheet.

Support for revising or developing program educational goals for submission to the Faculty Senate

  • CTAL-guided support:
    • Fall 2022 series: Friday, September 16, at 3:00; Friday, October 14, at 3:00, Friday, November 11, at 3:00
    • Winter Institute on Learning: Online on Tuesday, January 17, and Wednesday, January 18 or in-person on Thursday, January 26
    • Spring 2023 series: Friday, February 24, at 3:00; Friday, March 24, at 3:00; Friday, April 21, at 3:00
  • Online self-guided modules

FAQs

Frequently asked questions about the collection process of program educational goals

UD Examples

Examples of exemplary UD program educational goals 

Non-UD Examples

Collection of discipline-specific examples of program educational goals and literature on forming those goals

Characteristics of good program educational goals

Clear outcomes

Clearly stated outcomes are essential in providing students (and many others) with information about what they can expect to learn and do in the program. Moreover, they provide clear signposts for faculty when creating or revising the program’s curriculum.

Observable

For faculty and others to understand how well students are meeting the goals, the goals must describe actions, products, or behaviors that can be observed and evaluated using appropriate disciplinary standards. This can include quantitative and qualitative measures, descriptions, and judgments.

Incorporation of other goals

Programs at the University of Delaware do not exist in a vacuum; they are situated in many other contexts and those contexts may impose or suggest program educational goals.

For example, all undergraduate programs at the university must allow students opportunities to complete their General Education requirements (e.g., breadth requirements, capstone) and meet the General Education objectives (e.g., critical reading, quantitative reasoning). Accredited programs have requirements that may include specific courses and topics. And all programs have obligations to accurately educate students in accordance with their disciplinary norms.

Appropriate rigor

Well-written program educational goals should take into account the nature of the students who enroll in the program and the resources that are available to support them. A program that is highly selective and has a large number of faculty to support its students can have program goals that qualitatively differ from the goals of a program that is not selective and has only a small number of faculty.

Reasonable time-to-degree

Students should be able to complete the program in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, this relates to not only the number and type of courses that are required but also many other factors that are not as easily controlled e.g., faculty availability to offer courses, departmental resources to support courses (especially more expensive or complex instances such as labs or service learning courses). This may also require coordination with other programs and departments to ensure that courses that are required or recommended are available.

Approaches to writing or revising program educational goals

Reverse engineering your curriculum

With only a few very special exceptions, every degree program has a curriculum, courses that are required and courses that are recommended. In many instances, those courses are explicitly grouped together under topical headings; these groupings indicate program educational goals.

When analyzing an existing curriculum to determine the educational goals of that program, it may be helpful to ask:

  • Why does this program include these courses?
  • Why are specific, individual courses required or recommended?
  • Why are groups of courses required or recommended?
  • If there are required credits in specific areas outside the department, why?
  • Do the required or recommended courses act as “gatekeeping” courses? This can be explicit (e.g., prerequisite courses, demonstrated prior knowledge or experience) or implicit (e.g., assumptions of prior knowledge or experience, assumption of access to or ownership of specialized tools or equipment?).
Following standards and recommendations

Accredited programs frequently have some or all of their program educational goals mandated. But in many programs, accredited and non-accredited, scholars in those disciplines have conducted work to determine the common educational goals of programs in those disciplines. In some cases, this work has not been focused directly on program educational goals but on related areas such as disciplinary norms and practices, disciplinary competencies expected by professionals in the field, or what is commonly taught in programs and courses (e.g., signature pedagogies).

The Tuning Project is one large, multinational project that has documented disciplinary competencies in many different contexts e.g., different disciplines, different geographical locations, different cultures. This project was initiated in Europe as many countries aligned their college- and university-level degree programs to enable movement between those countries and their colleges and universities. It has since been replicated and extended by many organizations across the world, including the United States. A webpage with “Reference Points,” one of the key products of tuning processes, is maintained by the Tuning Academy; note that these documents produced in an international context refer to “first cycle,” “second cycle,” and “third cycle” instead of “bachelor’s degree,” “Master’s degree,” and “doctorate.”

Many scholarly and professional organizations have produced explicit recommendations for or studies of educational goals. Some of them have done this in the context of a tuning process e.g., the American History Association Tuning the History Discipline project produced a “2016 Discipline Core.” Others have done this work independent of the tuning process e.g., the Association for Computing Machinery and the Association for Information Systems collaborated to write IS 2010: Curriculum Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Information Systems, several funding organizations of biology research and education supported the writing of Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology Education A Call to Action.

CTAL also maintains a listing of discipline-specific materials and has developed some experience in searching scholarly literature for this information; please contact us if you would like assistance or advice in locating this information in your own discipline.

Transforming departmental goals

Academic departments and other units at UD have goals. These are often listed on their webpages, frequently discussed at annual retreats, and included in documents such as those produced for the Academic Program Review. These goals often include some broad educational goals but they also include goals that are not directly related to program curricula and student learning e.g., faculty research productivity, faculty service, departmental resources. It seems plausible in many instances to begin with departmental goals and combine them with an analysis of program curricula to make program educational goals explicit.

Creating goals from scratch

For programs that are in development, it may be necessary to create program educational goals “from scratch” as there is not an existing curriculum to analyze, departmental goals may not be adaptable, and relevant scholarship is still being written. The process used in the different tuning projects may be very helpful; Tuning American Higher Education: The Process describes how tuning projects were carried out in the United States.

In brief, this process involved:

  1. Defining the discipline core
  2. Mapping career pathways
  3. Consulting stakeholders
  4. Honing core competencies and learning outcomes
  5. Implementing results locally & writing degree specifications.

Support

Faculty and staff are welcome to request support from CTAL to develop or revise program educational goals. These consultations may include briefings at faculty meetings, guided workshops, reviews of drafts, assistance in identifying examples and disciplinary resources, or other interactions and support services. In the 2022-2023 academic year, we will offer guided support series in the fall and spring semesters in addition to the Winter Institute on Learning in January. Self-guided modules are also available.

Resources

Although there is an abundance of scholarship on program educational goals in specific disciplines, there is a dearth of scholarship on program educational goals broadly construed. However, many of the resources originally developed to help write course-level educational goals are applicable to writing program-level educational goals. We have also collected examples of discipline-specific resources including a list of institutions that publish all of their program educational goals on their public websites. Some additional resources are also available in our self-guided modules for revising or creating program educational goals.