Why and How to Align SLOs to the Course Outline

As a general rule, a three unit course should have four to six SLOs; there, however, are always exceptions, so the best way to determine the correct number of SLOs for your particular course is to write a tentative set of SLOs that you believe identify what students should know or be able to do when they complete the course, and align those SLOs with the course outline.

The SLOs and Course Outline have a very close relationship; indeed, they are the flip sides of the same coin. In particular, the course objectives portion of the course outline identifies the specific knowledge and skills that are to be taught in the course, whereas the SLOs identify a broader set of concepts and/or skills students should know or be able to perform when they complete the course.

The Philosophy Department recently developed SLOs for Philosophy 103, “Critical Thinking” and aligned them to the course outline. Their experience provides an excellent case study for why and how to align SLOs to the course outline.

The process began with the Philosophy department developing a tentative set of SLOs:

  1. Students recognize the difference between arguments and non-arguments (explanations, descriptions, and reports);
  2. Students identify the conclusion of an argument;
  3. Students analyze and evaluate the support for the conclusion; and
  4. Students recognize the context and purpose of an argument.

The number of SLOs is certainly within the recommended range and the content of the SLOs seems to be comprehensive; nevertheless, the Philosophy faculty used the SLO-Course Outline Alignment Form to make sure that each course objective aligned with an SLO. They began by copying the four SLOs into the “Course SLOs” box at the top of the form:

 

Course SLOs:

  1. Students recognize the difference between and arguments and non-arguments (explanations, descriptions, and reports).
  2. Students identify the conclusion of an argument
  3. Students analyze and evaluate the support for the conclusion.
  4. Students recognize the context and purpose of an argument.

 

Course Objectives SLO1 SLO2 SLO3 SLO4 SLO5 SLO6  
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               
               

Analysis and If Necessary, Proposed Changes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, they reviewed the “Course Objectives” portion of the Course Outline:

Philosophy 103 Course Objectives

A. Summarizing an argumentative essay, noting its main and supporting points

B. Outlining the argument presented in an essay, showing how the supporting points contribute to the main point

C. Synthesizing various arguments presented in essays on a single topic, comparing and contrasting the main points

D. Analyzing and evaluating an essay’s arguments with respect to

  1. Clarity of key elements
  2. Emotive value of language
  3. Informal fallacies
  4. Underlying assumptions and values
  5. Validity, soundness, strength and cogency of argument

E. Writing an argument which does the following, as appropriate:

  1. Clearly states the main point or claim
  2. Supports the main point with clearly stated reasons
  3. Uses credible sources and documents them
  4. Remains relevant to the main point or claim
  5. Considers alternative viewpoints and presents them fairly
  6. Withholds judgment when reasons are insufficient
  7. Seeks as much precision as the subject permits
  8. Clarifies key terms
  9. Avoids unnecessary emotional appeals
  10. Attempts a resolution of the issue
  11. Includes the opponents as members of the audience and is sensitive to their feelings and beliefs

F. Demonstrating an understanding of and sensitivity to the perspectives of women and members of minority groups as those perspectives pertain to the issues under discussion

G. Understanding the nature of advanced lower–division composition: essay structure, continuity, emphasis and subtlety, elements of style, grammar as a stylistic technique, audience, persuasive rhetoric, and topoi

H. Applying these composition components in argumentative essay writing and in the reading of arguments

I. In addition to these specific learning objectives, this course also aims to foster in students:

  1. Habits of making reasonable, rationally defensible choices
  2. Habits of assessing and defending the reasonableness of one’s beliefs
        and
  3. Values the intellectual traits or virtues characteristic of critical thinkers: intellectual perseverance, independent thinking, intellectual courage, intellectual integrity, confidence in reason, intellectual curiosity, intellectual humility, intellectual empathy, and so forth
  4. Appreciation of the vital role critical thinking plays in decision-making, both private and public
  5. Appreciation of the importance of looking at an issue from a variety of points of view and of recognizing the complexity that surrounds most controversial issues
  6. Appreciation of the power of human reason and recognition of its limitations

 

 

And they copied each course objective into the “SLO-Course Outline Alignment Form”:

Course SLOs:

  1. Students recognize the difference between and arguments and non-arguments (explanations, descriptions, and reports).
  2. Students identify the conclusion of an argument
  3. Students identify and evaluate the support for the conclusion.
  4. Students recognize the context and purpose of an argument.

 

Course Objectives SLO1 SLO2 SLO3 SLO4 SLO5 SLO6  
A    Summarizing an argumentative essay, noting its main and supporting points              
B    Outlining the argument presented in essay on a single topic, showing how the supporting points contribute to the main point              
C    Synthesizing various argument presented in essays on a single topic, comparing and contrasting the main points              
D   Analyzing and evaluating an essay’s arguments with respect to: clarity of key elements, etc.              
E   Writing an argument which does the following, as appropriate: Clearly states the main point or claim              
F   Demonstrating an understanding of and sensitivity to the perspectives of women and members of minority groups as those perspectives pertain to the issues under discussion              
G   Understanding the nature of advanced lower–division composition: essay structure, continuity, emphasis and subtlety, elements of style, grammar as a stylistic technique, audience, persuasive rhetoric, and topoi              
H    Applying these composition components in argumentative essay writing and in the reading of arguments              
I   In addition to these specific learning objectives, this course also aims to foster in students: Habits of making reasonable, rationally defensible choices, etc.              

Analysis and If Necessary, Proposed Changes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At last they began to check for the alignment of the course objectives with the SLOs. In doing so, they identified which course objectives aligned with which SLOs by placing an “X” in the corresponding box:

Course SLOs:

  1. Students recognize the difference between and arguments and non-arguments (explanations, descriptions, and reports).
  2. Students identify the conclusion of an argument
  3. Students identify and evaluate the support for the conclusion.
  4. Students recognize the context and purpose of an argument.

 

Course Objectives SLO1 SLO2 SLO3 SLO4 SLO# SLO#  
A    Summarizing an argumentative essay, noting its main and supporting points     X        
B    Outlining the argument presented in essay on a single topic, showing how the supporting points contribute to the main point     X        
C    Synthesizing various argument presented in essays on a single topic, comparing and contrasting the main points   X          
D   Analyzing and evaluating an essay’s arguments with respect to: clarity of key elements, etc     X        
E   Writing an argument which does the following, as appropriate: Clearly states the main point or claim              
F   Demonstrating an understanding of and sensitivity to the perspectives of women and members of minority groups as those perspectives pertain to the issues under discussion       X      
G   Understanding the nature of advanced lower–division composition: essay structure, continuity, emphasis and subtlety, elements of style, grammar as a stylistic technique, audience, persuasive rhetoric, and topoi              
H    Applying these composition components in argumentative essay writing and in the reading of arguments              
I   In addition to these specific learning objectives, this course also aims to foster in students: Habits of making reasonable, rationally defensible choices, etc. X            

Analysis and If Necessary, Proposed Changes:

 

 

 

 

 

 

After working through the alignment process, the Philosophy department discovered that course objectives A through D and F and I aligned with at least one of the SLOs, but that course objectives E, G, and H did not. In reviewing the three unaligned course objectives, they discovered that they had a common thread and could be addressed by adding an additional SLO. 

They then recorded their findings in the “Analysis and If Necessary, Proposed Changes:” box at the bottom of the form.

Course SLOs:

  1. Students recognize the difference between and arguments and non-arguments (explanations, descriptions, and reports).
  2. Students identify the conclusion of an argument
  3. Students identify and evaluate the support for the conclusion.
  4. Students recognize the context and purpose of an argument.

 

Course Objectives SLO1 SLO2 SLO3 SLO4 SLO5 SLO6  
A    Summarizing an argumentative essay, noting its main and supporting points     X        
B    Outlining the argument presented in essay on a single topic, showing how the supporting points contribute to the main point     X        
C    Synthesizing various argument presented in essays on a single topic, comparing and contrasting the main points   X          
D   Analyzing and evaluating an essay’s arguments with respect to: clarity of key elements, etc     X        
E   Writing an argument which does the following, as appropriate: Clearly states the main point or claim              
F   Demonstrating an understanding of and sensitivity to the perspectives of women and members of minority groups as those perspectives pertain to the issues under discussion       X      
G   Understanding the nature of advanced lower–division composition: essay structure, continuity, emphasis and subtlety, elements of style, grammar as a stylistic technique, audience, persuasive rhetoric, and topoi              
H    Applying these composition components in argumentative essay writing and in the reading of arguments              
I   In addition to these specific learning objectives, this course also aims to foster in students: Habits of making reasonable, rationally defensible choices, etc. X            

Analysis and If Necessary, Proposed Changes:

 

Course objectives E, G, and H do not align to any of the existing SLOs. The three learning objectives concern the students’ ability to write, so the philosophy department proposes adding an SLO to the course that will address these objectives. The SLO will read “Students produce written arguments that follow Standard English and documentation.

 

 

Hence, after aligning SLOs with the Course Outline, the Philosophy Department discovered the Philosophy 103 needed not four SLOs, but five and those five are as follows:

  1. Students recognize the difference between and arguments and non-arguments (explanations, descriptions, and reports);
  2. Students identify the conclusion of an argument;
  3. Students identify and evaluate the support for the conclusion;
  4. Students recognize the context and purpose of an argument;
  5. Students produce written arguments that follow Standard English and documentation.

The number of SLOs that a course should have is not arbitrary. While the number generally ranges from four to six, the correct number of SLOs for a given course should be determined by aligning the proposed course SLOs to the Course Outline. In this way, the number of SLOs is not determined by an outside body but by the faculty who writes the course outlines and teaches the course.