Does my class need to claim an ILO?

No. Our new General Education outcomes are to be Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILO). The expectation from accreditation is that our ILOs be taught and assessed across all programs. This does not mean that they should be taught and assessed in every class. It just means that students in all of our degree programs should get assessed instruction in each ILO somewhere along the way.

This is helpful since it would be hard to teach a meaningful ILO and actionably assess it across a very broad range of courses. The more courses included in an ILO, the less meaningful overlap there will be in curricular content. So, infusing an ILO very widely across lots of courses would either dilute the content of the ILO to the point where it is meaningless or impose an undue imposition on the curriculum taught in many courses that already have full syllabi.

Having meaningful ILOs that reach all of our students is a balancing act. We need to find that cross section of courses that reach all or our students that can also provide meaningful instruction in the ILO. This will not be a huge challenge where an ILO can “piggyback” on existing degree requirements. So, for instance, a Quantitative Reasoning ILO can reach nearly all of our students through the existing QSR degree requirement and through required science classes. An Information and Technological Literacy ILO can piggyback on existing degree requirements for English composition courses. Likewise, to some extent anyway, English degree requirements can carry a Communication ILO. A Cultural Diversity or Social Justice ILO that substantially overlaps with our Diversity Degree Requirement (DDR) will also have a ready-made place in existing degree requirements.

Among the ILOs we are currently considering Critical Thinking is the one clear orphan. This ILO has no ready-made home in existing degree requirements. We will have to build one, perhaps piecemeal, by recruiting a cross section of programs and courses that pretty much reach all of our students. One where a Critical Thinking ILO can be taught in a meaningful and actionably assessable way. This will take time, perhaps also some professional development and curriculum development. Perhaps this outcome can coordinate to some degree with FYS. Perhaps someday we can follow the model of the DDR and implement a Critical Thinking Degree Requirement. In any case, the project we have embarked on with critical thinking is starting with some self-reflection concerning how we operationally define critical thinking in our various disciplines. Next, we will look at how Critical Thinking researchers define critical thinking. Then perhaps we can take a deeper dive into the specific skills and abilities that constitute a well-rounded critical thinking curriculum.


Assessment, Teaching and Learning Conference

Our team us just back from the ATL Conference in Yakima where we presented our research on WACTC Institutional Learning Outcomes. Many thanks to Fatma Serce for her thorough data analysis.

Here are the slides:


Campus Community Day

Well, that was exhausting. Rob, Rebecca and a few others assured me that our meeting was heated in a healthy, invigorating way. Of course, they weren’t on the hot seat.

Some of the heat seemed to be based on the notion that our recommendations represent the arbitrary will of our wise and powerful Gen Ed lead, myself. This is simply not the case. First of all, because I am not so wise and powerful. But more importantly, because our recommendations are not arbitrary. They are based on two guiding principles:

  • Accreditation expectations
  • Serving our students well

Productive feedback will be informed about how our recommendations are based on these guiding principles and, hopefully, aimed at helping us advance these more effectively. Some of the pushback we got last week did not appear to be well informed about how our recommendations are based on these guiding principles.

Accreditation is looking for two things from us.

  • Our Gen Ed outcomes should be Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs). This means that they should be taught and assessed across all degree programs.
  • Our Assessment results need to be meaningful and actionable. They should inform our academic planning and resource allocations (for instance, to support professional development or curriculum development around our ILOs)

These expectations have some ramifications concerning some contentious issues last week:

  • Why can’t we have more outcomes?

We’ve recommended limiting ourselves to 4-5 ILOs. This is because of the Accreditation expectation that each ILO be taught and assessed across all degree programs. A few ILOs, specifically Information and Technological Literacy, Cultural Diversity, and Quantitative Reasoning (or a QSR) are relatively easy lifts because they can piggyback off of existing degree requirements. For each ILO beyond this, we will have to recruit programs and courses that reach all of our students to teach the ILO in a meaningful way. There is not so much credit space to work with in the case of some of our Prof Tech degrees. The more ILOs we have, the harder this gets.

We had a nice round of applause for the idea having more and more outcomes because we are bigger and better. It is a nice idea. At the end of the day, we will have as many ILOs as faculty make the effort to implement. Doing this with ILOs that provide meaningful learning for our students is going to take a good deal of collaborative effort on our part. Wanting more ILOs isn’t going to get us there.

  • Why can’t a course that only covers part of an ILO be certified at the Basic level?

This idea compromises both of our guiding principles. We can’t meaningfully and actionably assess a moving target. If we have some classes teaching just some of an outcome and others teaching other slices, while yet other aspects of the ILO largely fall through the cracks, then our assessment data isn’t going to be measuring student learning in the ILO, or anything we can reliably track. This part of the issue is about effective research design. If we want to have an effective measure of student learning of an ILO, we need to isolate the signal and control for extraneous variables that can bias or obscure our results.

Some of us seem unconcerned with meaningful, actionable assessment results, perhaps on the grounds that we already know we are teaching all this good stuff, and the role of assessment is just to document our own good work for Accreditation. This is the sort of thing Robin Jeffers used to tell us. This is not how Accreditation sees it. The point of outcomes assessment is for us to hold ourselves accountable for doing what we say we are doing. Our assessment effort will be a meaningless farce if we start with the assumption that we are already doing a great job at teaching all the outcomes we say we are teaching. We will afford ourselves no opportunity to learn from our mistakes and improve our game if we begin with that conviction.

Second, certifying courses at the basic level that teach only some of an outcome fails to serve our students well. As we write outcome KSAs we are laying down what we want all our students to learn as a student at BC. The suggestion that we certify courses for an ILO at the Basic level when they teach only part of the outcome amounts to letting that commitment slide at the level of implementation. The point of TILTing Gen Ed is to be transparent with students about what they are going to get out of our Gen Ed program. Serving our students well requires being clear about what we promise and then delivering on what we promise. Just how much we should promise will be a matter of ongoing discussion for a good while. We do need to reconcile our Gen Ed ambitions with the rest of our curriculum and our instructional capacity. But we could also take advantage of some opportunities for growth along the way.

We are building this new Gen Ed program from the ground up. The first layer is the Basic version where we focus on reaching all our students with robust meaningful instruction in the things we want all of our students to learn while they are at BC. Here we want to cover the entire ILO, though at an introductory level and perhaps not in great depth. The next layer would add courses where our ILOs are taught in more advanced or specialized ways. This is the Deluxe version of the plan. At the Deluxe level, courses needn’t cover the entire ILO, but are free to focus on the aspects relevant to their curriculum.

  • What about Quantitative Reasoning?

Our poll was not intended to definitively settle exactly which or how many outcomes we are going to have. We made a few recommendations largely on the basis of poll results. But again, what outcomes we ultimately have depends on what outcomes faculty want to build and implement. A QR outcome should be a relatively easy lift since a QR outcome can largely piggyback on our existing QSR degree requirement. One issue to consider early on might be whether we want a QR outcome or a QSR outcome. The QSR degree requirement includes logic. So, if we are going to reach all or our students just by piggybacking on that degree requirement, then we will want to write outcomes abstractly enough to accommodate logic. Another option is to have just a QR and infuse it across enough science classes (maybe including lab courses for non-majors). That way we can reach the students to take logic as part of a humanities or social science pathway without depending entirely on the QSR degree requirement. Working with Pathways could help with this.

I’m sure there are other issues on people’s mind. Please submit comments. I’ll answer in comments or revise or expand this post as appropriate. Do bear in mind that this is the beginning of our conversations about new ILOs. We hope you will participate in upcoming events. Expect some invites for outcome working groups by the end of this week.

Here’s a link to the slides from the meeting:

Gen Ed Reform.pptx (

Process Outline

Outline of our Gen Ed Reform Process

Here is an outline of our current working plan for Gen Ed Reform at BC. Revisions are inevitable.

Stage 1: Establishing Foundations

–          Assemble a Steering Committee

–          Define Objectives

–          Conduct Research

–          Faculty Discussion (where we are now)

Stage 2: Framework Development (Starting Spring 2024)

–          Faculty Survey for new Outcomes

–          Draft Outcomes and KSAs for each outcome

–          Faculty Discussion/Seek Feedback

–          Revise Outcomes and KSAs

Stage 3: Pilot courses and Assessment (Starting in 2024-25)

–          Recruit 3 – 5 courses per outcome to pilot new outcomes and assess with rubrics

–          Review with involved faculty and Gen Ed working groups

–          Revise Outcomes and Assessment

Stage 3: Governance and Committee Structure (2024-25)

–          Establish dedicated sub-committees for each of the Gen Ed outcomes

–          Each committee is responsible for clearly defining and articulating the specific learning outcomes they oversee

–          The sub-committees develop criteria that courses must meet to be certified as fulfilling a Gen Ed outcome

–          The sub-committees determine the preferred model: basic, deluxe or premium for implementing and assessing the outcome

Stage 4: Assessment and Certification

–          The sub-committees develop clear methods for assessing learning outcomes

–          The sub-committees review and recommend courses to the CAC for Gen Ed certification.

Stage 5: Implementation

–        Expand Gen Ed program to reach all students

–        Fine tune outcomes, KSAs and assessment rubrics.

Stage 6: Finalization and Voting

–          Refine the proposal based on pilot feedback and faculty discussions

–          Conduct a faculty vote on the final proposal

Stage 7: Continuous Evaluation and Adaption

–          Review and Reflect

–          Modify and Enhance


Helpful Medium post

13 Ways of Looking at General Education Reform | by Constance Relihan | The Faculty | Medium

Data Uncategorized

SBCTC Outcomes Language

Fatma Serce has compiled outcomes language for a few common outcome accross the SBCTC system. Several BC faculty have asked for this in hope of finding good examples to follow. As you’ll see, examples from other institutions vary widely. So, we will still need to decide for ourselves what we want for our students.

We ultimately need to go granular and think about the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) we want our students to develop while they are at BC. If we do this first, formulating operational definitions of our outcomes that reflect our KSAs should be relatively straightforward.

Here’s the Excel file Fatma prepared.

Tilted Model

Legacy Problems, TILTed Solutions 

 Legacy Gen Ed Problems TILTed Gen Ed Solutions 
18 outcomes are too many Cut down to 4 or 5 
Outcomes are variously interpreted and assessed with the result that there is no one thing we are measuring with our assessment data Use Gen Ed committees to cultivate and articulate shared conceptions of Gen Eds and curricular standards with commensurable assessment methods 
Many outcomes are not taught generally to all of our students Make Gen Ed certified courses degree requirements 
Gen Ed is not transparent or meaningful to students TILT Gen Ed (Transparency in Learning and Teaching) 


  1. There is little prospect of making 18 outcomes meaningful for students. Even among faculty and administrators, nobody can just name all 18, never mind define them. A third of our 18 outcomes have no definition in campus documents. If we cut down to 4 or 5 outcomes that represent what it means to get an education at BC, outcomes that embody the basic skills and core values we want all students to cultivate, then we can be transparent with students and make our Gen Ed program meaningful to them. 
  1. This is an accreditation issue. Accreditation expects us to use the results of assessment to improve our teaching of Gen Ed outcomes and to use the results of Gen Ed in academic planning and resource allocation decisions. We can’t do this without meaningful data. Currently there is generally no one thing we are measuring with our data. We have a “junk in” problem. This problem stems from the fact that we have treated Gen Ed as synonymous with assessment. The result is that we really only have the tail end of a program of General Education. A key feature of the TILTed (Transparency in Learning and Teaching) proposal is to establish permanent subcommittees to the CAC (Curriculum Advisory Committee), one for each of our 4 or 5 Gen Eds. Each Gen Ed subcommittee will have roles to play prior to assessment in articulating curricular standards for the outcome, vetting and recommending courses for certification in the Gen Ed, supporting programs in developing curriculum for the Gen Ed outcome. Meaningful assessment requires that we know what we are measuring and adopt shared standards of evaluation. The proposed Gen Ed subcommittees are charged with facilitating this prior to assessment, and then iteratively in light of assessment results. 
  1. This is also an accreditation issue. Accreditation is asking for institution wide learning outcomes. Making our Gen Ed outcomes Institutional Learning Outcomes requires incorporating all of our Gen Eds into all degree programs. This will be feasible only if we narrow our Gen Eds down to a few basic skills and core values. 
  1. Students have little to no awareness of the existence of our Gen Ed program. Making our Gen Ed program transparent and student centered requires addressing problems 1-3. Our Gen Ed program should embody the core of what we want all degree seeking students to get out of a BC education. Being clear with students about this requires that we know what our Gen Ed outcomes are and that we have a more or less shared conception of them. This is a first step towards TILTing Gen Ed. 
Tilted Model

Alternative Models  

The Gen Ed Steering Committee has explored a range of possible models for a new Gen Ed program at BC. We are not in a position to sign on to a new model in an informed and deliberate manner without taking this step. There are a number of dimensions along which models for Gen Ed vary. Key factors include the number, and type of outcomes, the continuum from core curriculum to total infusion with various hybrid arrangements in between, and the various methods of assessment.   

Li Liu from CMST presented on Cascadia’s infusion model. Cascadia has four learning outcomes which are infused across all courses. A constraint for this model is that substantial content cannot be delivered to all students. For instance, we could not expect every course on campus to deliver meaningful instruction on Cultural Diversity. Different courses on campus often have overlapping curriculum. But there is no significant content that is taught in all of our courses. For this reason, an infusion model like Cascadia’s cannot have content-based outcomes. Outcomes that are shared by every course offered across campus must be limited to addressing near universal aspects of the teaching and learning process.  If there is significant curriculum beyond required English and Math courses that we’d like all of our students to get as students at BC, the Cascadia model will not deliver this. 

We also briefly discussed a core curriculum model. A core curriculum model would deliver instruction in Gen Ed outcomes through a few required courses. We might, for instance, have a required course that focuses on communication and critical thinking, and another that focuses on cultural diversity and issues of justice more broadly. The major drawback of going this route would be the substantial disruption to enrollment patterns it would entail. In the case of this example, a full third of both Humanities and Social Science distribution requirements would be fully occupied by required core classes.   

The TILT model proposed by our AAC&U team is a flexible hybrid model. Its key features include a limited number of Gen Ed outcomes and Gen Ed subcommittees to the CAC for each outcome. The subcommittees are charged with vetting courses for certification in a Gen Ed, supporting programs in brining courses up to curricular standards, administering and evaluating assessment of their Gen Ed, and using these results to continually improve institution wide education in their Gen Ed. This model allows for Gen Ed outcomes with significant content to reach all our students, but without dramatically disrupting enrollment patterns. The TILT model leaves open the question of just how robust the curricular standards for each Gen Ed outcome will be and just how widely they will be infused across programs. Indeed, these matters remain open to fine tuning even after implementation of the TILT model.  

The Gen Ed Steering Committee has explored these issues to some degree. Some of these issues were previously explored last year by FACT and the AAC&U team along with many others in our early initial conversations. We are eager to broaden that discussion, though we also realize that the details of model choice may not be of highest concern to many faculty.   

BC is an outlier in terms of the number of outcomes. Most institutions have under a half dozen Gen Ed outcomes. The most frequently claimed Gen Ed outcomes at institutions around the state are communications and critical thinking. If our Gen Ed outcomes are to be Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) that reach all of our degree seeking students, they will have to be rather few in number. If we hope to teach our Gen Eds in a substantial meaningful way, they cannot be indiscriminately infused across campus.  


Progress Reports

Gen Ed Reform Summary 

Accreditation wants a couple of things of us: 

·         Accreditation wants a commitment to Institution-wide learning outcomes and therefore BC needs to select learning outcomes that we want all our degree seeking students to attain. With this in mind, “general education outcomes” become “Institutional Learning Outcomes”. 

·         It wants us to act on our assessment data to improve our instruction of our Institutional Learning Outcomes 

Under our past approach to Gen Ed and assessment we cannot do either of these things: 

·         18 outcomes are too many. We cannot assure instruction to all our degree seeking students in 18 different Gen Ed outcomes. 

·         We cannot measure what we do not understand. Our assessment data will not be actionable without a broadly shared conception of our Institutional Learning Outcomes and the curricular standards we apply to these. 

So, Gen Ed reform at BC is called for. What should it look like? 

·         We need a manageable number of outcomes. 

·         These should reflect what it means to get an education at BC. 

·         We can benefit students by adopting Institutional Learning Outcomes (ILOs) and standards that address core competencies and values that are not necessarily covered by the DTA or current degree requirements. 

·        Faculty teaching Institutional Learning Outcomes should work to maintain a shared conception of these and a shared appreciation of our curricular standards so that we know what we are measuring in assessment. 

What has the Gen Ed Steering committee proposed so far: 

·         Limit our outcomes to 4 or 5 at the most. 

·         Adopt a governance structure for Gen Ed that is not just about assessment, but also sustains and refines our shared understanding of our outcomes and supports programs in meeting our curricular standards. 

Next steps: 

·         Faculty need to talk about new Institutional Learning Outcomes and curricular standards for these. 

·         Pilot classes and assessment (2024-25) 

For more detail, please consult our collection of brief working documents: