Overview of Learning Outcomes

Outcomes at Maryland

Assessing undergraduate student learning outcomes is the national standard for improving teaching and learning in higher education. It is also prominent in the procedures used by all higher education accrediting agencies. At the University of Maryland, the Provost's Commission on Learning Outcomes Assessment provides the leadership and organizational procedures for our engagement in such assessment.

Student learning outcomes focus on what a student knows or can do after completing a course or program. Assessing undergraduate student learning outcomes provides information that puts student learning at the forefront of academic planning processes.

This webpage contains UMD's plans for establishing and maintaining a culture of learning outcomes assessment on our campus and exists primarily for the use of UMD faculty, students, and administrators.

Fast Facts

  • All current undergraduate programs have established goals for student learning, and that these goals are available on a public site: Program Goals.
  • A diverse group of UM faculty wrote learning goals that span multiple common expectations for all UM undergraduates, including critical thinking and research skills, written and oral communication, science and quantitative reasoning, Information Literacy, and Technological Fluency.
  • Representatives from every college at UM have met as a group to establish best practices for undergraduate program learning outcomes assessment, and to give feedback to all UM undergraduate programs on their plans to assess student learning.
  • More than 20 workshops have been held across campus, including some given by national leaders in student learning, to educate the community about University expectations for learning outcomes assessment.
  • All assessment activities protect the anonymity of students who participate, ensuring that our focus is on overall learning rather than the work of individual students.

To date, the Provost's Commission on Learning Outcomes Assessment has researched and formulated the following University-wide learning goals for UM undergraduate students which correspond to the essential elements of an undergraduate education as stated by Middle States Standard 12. These goals articulate the educational outcomes to which we as a University aspire for our graduates. The goals for these elements are not exhaustive, and not every student will necessarily master each goal. Finally, these goals must be understood as articulating with the goals and objectives of our General Education program and those of academic disciplines.

Critical Reasoning and Research Skills


University of Maryland undergraduates should learn and develop critical reasoning and research skills that they can apply successfully within a wide range and intersection of disciplines inside and outside of academia. Objectives - University of Maryland undergraduates should have the ability to:

  1. Identify and analyze the issue(s), the position of the source, key assumptions, and contextual relevance.
  2. Recognize and state pertinent perspectives, propositions, and positions, including the student's own, and formulate hypotheses and persuasive arguments.
  3. Assess the quality of supporting information and provide additional evidence.
  4. Appraise conclusions, implications, and consequences.
  5. Frame significant research problems and assess strategies for investigation.
  6. Apply various research methods to solve research problems.
  7. Communicate research findings in appropriate written, oral and/or graphical formats.

Written and Oral Communication


Using standard English, University of Maryland undergraduates will communicate clearly and effectively in writing and orally for different audiences and purposes. Objectives - University of Maryland undergraduates should have the ability to:

  1. Incorporate critical inquiry in their written and oral communication.
  2. Demonstrate written and oral communication as processes involving invention, organization, drafting, revision, editing, and presentation.
  3. Demonstrate proficiency in conventions of genre, format, documentation, grammar, spelling, syntax, and punctuation to produce a stylistically appropriate text for written and oral communication.
  4. Demonstrate awareness of the audience, circumstance and purpose.

Science and Quantitative Reasoning


University of Maryland undergraduates should understand and be able to apply basic scientific and mathematical reasoning to their research efforts and critical analyses. Objectives - University of Maryland undergraduates should be able to:

  1. Use the scientific method to develop and test hypotheses. This process should include analyzing existing data to formulate a hypothesis, defining criteria for testing the hypothesis, identifying criteria for data validation, and reformulating the hypothesis.
  2. Compile and interpret mathematical information in a variety of formats including formulas, graphs, and tables.
  3. Apply the methodology of scientific inquiry to other fields of study.
  4. Assess the reliability of mathematical information using logic and arithmetical and statistical methods.

Information Literacy Skills


University of Maryland undergraduates will learn and develop information literacy skills that they can successfully apply within a wide range and intersection of disciplines inside and outside academia. Objectives - University of Maryland undergraduates should have the ability to:

  1. Determine the extent of the information needed, and identify appropriate sources for information.
  2. Access and manage needed information effectively and efficiently including, but not limited to: Using appropriate investigative methods and information retrieval systems; designing an effective search strategy, i.e. using keywords, Boolean operators, finding aids, etc.; retrieving information regardless of format; refining the search strategy if necessary; and, extracting, recording, and managing information and its sources.
  3. Evaluate information and its sources critically, and assess the value added by new information in relation to prior knowledge.
  4. Use information effectively to accomplish research goals.
  5. Understand and respect legal and ethical issues that govern the use of information, and acknowledge information sources in a discipline-appropriate format.

Technology Fluency


University of Maryland undergraduates will be able to understand basic technologies and how these relate to their specific disciplines, and will be able to apply these technologies to their research and academic efforts. Objectives - University of Maryland Undergraduates will have the ability to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the fundamental principles, concepts, and knowledge of technology.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of the operation, application, and limitations of technologies important to the student's discipline.
  3. Demonstrate the capacity to make reasoned and ethical judgments about the impact of technology on the individual, community and society.
  4. Use technology (email, Internet, etc.) to: Locate information; communicate; use word-processing programs, spreadsheets, databases, and graphics as they are used in their disciplines; and, search databases to support written and oral presentations in their field.

Articulated University-wide Learning Goals have had an impact not anticipated when they were developed. Because these University-wide Goals guided early work in stating learning outcomes for individual degree programs across campus, they are apparent in these separate lists of outcomes as well as in rubrics used for assessing various courses and programs. For example, nearly every degree program has posted stated outcomes dealing with effective oral and written communication (see program goals below), as well as assessment instruments for those outcomes.

Below are links to the college and administrative unit lists of selected undergraduate student learning outcomes by program. These lists are not meant to be exhaustive, but rather examples of learning outcomes that faculty and administrators have identified as of interest to them. Outcomes listed may change periodically. Within colleges, goals are listed within departments.

(AGNR) College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

(ARCH) College of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

(ARHU) College of Arts and Humanities

(BMGT) Robert H. Smith School of Business

(BSOS) College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

(CMNS) College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences

(INFO) College of Information Studies

(EDUC) College of Education

(ENGR) A. James Clark School of Engineering

(JOUR) Philip Merrill College of Journalism

(PLCY) School of Public Policy

(SPHL) School of Public Health

(UGST) Office of Undergraduate Studies

University Libraries

The Provost's Commission on Learning Outcomes Assessment, established in Fall 2003, is chaired by the Associate Provost of Academic Affairs and Dean for Undergraduate Studies, William Cohen. The Commission's charge is to work with all academic units in developing student learning outcomes and ongoing assessments.

The Commission is made up of four interacting groups of UM faculty and administrators:

Undergraduate College Coordinators

  • AGNR - Sarah Balcom
  • ARCH - Ken Filler
  • ARHU - Melissa Lucas
  • BMGT - Zeinab Karake, Martin Dresner
  • BSOS - Alka Gandhi
  • CMNS - Kaci Thompson
  • EDUC - Donna North
  • ENGR - Nicole Roop
  • JOUR - Chris Harvey
  • INFO - Katherine Worboys Izsak
  • LIBR - Ben Shaw
  • PLCY - Jennifer Littlefield
  • SPHL - Nicole Cousin-Gossett
  • UGST - Lawrence Clark

Undergraduate Planning Team

  • William Cohen, Undergraduate Studies, Chair
  • Michelle Appel, Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment
  • Alan Socha, Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment
  • Jamie Edwards, Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment
  • Lawrence Clark, Undergraduate Studies
  • Douglas Roberts, Undergraduate Studies
  • Cynthia Stevens, Undergraduate Studies
  • Alice Donlan, Undergraduate Studies
  • Mary Warneka, Teaching and Learning Transformation Center

In our world of rapid economic, social, and technological change, students need a strong and broadly based education. General education helps students achieve the intellectual integration and awareness they need to meet challenges in their personal, social, political, and professional lives. General education courses introduce great ideas and controversies in human thought and experience. A solid general education provides a strong foundation for the life-long learning that makes career-change goals attainable.

The new General Education program was implemented in Fall 2012. View GenEd learning outcomes

To learn more about UMD's General Education program, please see http://www.gened.umd.edu/

The responsibility for undergraduate student learning resides with faculty, students, and administrators. See below to get an idea of what some of these responsibilities are in relation to learning outcomes assessment.


Provide leadership; set the timetable for assessment processes within the college; review department and program plans for consistency with college standards for quality; make changes as appropriate based on feedback from assessment; report regularly to the Provost on all undergraduate learning outcomes matters.

Department and Program Chairs

Provide leadership to faculty in maintaining a commitment to undergraduate student learning; ensure that student learning outcomes assessment is an ongoing and valued process; set the timetable for assessment processes within the programs; submit department and program plans for assessment consistent with college standards for quality; make changes as appropriate based on feedback from assessments.


Establish the program learning outcome goals; identify how those statements of intended undergraduate student learning impact courses; identify the learning outcomes intended for each course and convey them to students on syllabi; perform assessments within courses to investigate student learning within the course and program; make changes to courses as appropriate based on feedback from assessment, and make changes in the program as appropriate.

Division of Student Affairs

Identify the undergraduate learning that occurs within programs and make statements about that learning in the form of outcomes; convey learning outcomes goals to students; assess how well those outcomes are met; make changes to programs as appropriate based on feedback from assessment.

Undergraduate Students

Investigate the intended learning outcomes in programs and courses; track learning in courses and other experiences to the stated outcomes; identify areas where more learning is necessary and choose courses and other experiences accordingly.