There is great value in committing to division-wide learning outcomes. Shared learning goals provide a framework for designing co-curricular experiences. As a result of this framework, we are better able to measure student learning and describe our impact on the student experience. Learning outcomes also provide a common language, aid in development of division-wide metrics, support the university's accreditation efforts, and most importantly, provide information that can be used to further improve our programs and services.
Assessment of student learning dates back to 1063 CE at the University of Bologna (Bresciani, Moore Gardner and Hickmott, 2009). In 1937, the American Council of Education called for student affairs staff to focus on improving programs and services related to "student out-of-class life and its connection to the educational mission" (Student Personnel Point of View). In 1996, the American College Personnel Association echoed this point by emphasizing the importance of measuring student learning outside the classroom (ACPA Student Learning Imperative).
More recently, members of the public and governmental officials have increased the pressure for universities to better demonstrate the value of a college degree. In response to these calls, learning outcomes have become more prevalent in the field of Student Affairs. This is demonstrated by the visibility of learning outcomes on a growing number of student affairs websites.
The Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (2008) and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (2012) have provided excellent frameworks to guide the development of learning outcomes. These tools, in conjunction with the advancements in technology, have helped streamline the process for assessing learning outcomes.