Keep Learning on Track with Outcomes in Quercus
You’d think I’d be an expert by now. I’ve taught in different disciplines: Biology, Experiential Learning, Leadership Studies, and Education. I’ve taught different students: undergraduates, graduate students, and community college instructors. I’ve partnered with faculty to think through course design and redesign for more than 10 years. You want to refine your learning outcomes? I’ll ensure they are action oriented and measurable. You want to make sure your teaching, learning activities and assessments align? Like a talented choir director, I’ll soon have them singing in harmony. After all, I have been doing this awhile. However, when developing the workshop Teaching with Quercus, Track Student Achievement with Learning Outcomes, I realized… I still have more to learn.
The intention of the workshop was to bring together pedagogical best practices with hands-on technical training. After reviewing the practice of developing learning outcomes with Jessie Richards (Curriculum Development Specialist, Office of the Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education), participants would develop or refine a learning outcome for one of their courses. Then, they’d create the outcomes on Quercus and link them with assignment rubrics and see how it all came together in the Learning Mastery Gradebook.
I prepared a sample assignment, rubric, and learning outcome that I would use for demonstration purposes. Simple enough, or so I thought. When I added the outcome onto the rubric in Quercus, I was quickly struck by the lack of real alignment. It wasn’t what I expected. The assignment didn’t address the outcome fully and some of the criteria on my rubric no longer made sense – I needed more weight on critical analysis and less weight on spelling and grammar. I wouldn’t have caught either of these shortcomings without using Quercus.
The Outcomes tool in Quercus can help you:
- Ensure alignment between your course outcomes, teaching, activities or assessments,
- Map course learning outcomes to assessments in order to track student achievement,
- Make the course design more explicit and transparent,
- Support students to focus their learning on what is important rather than getting caught up in details, and
- Shift students’ attention to achievement of the outcomes and a bit less (or not only!) on grades by incorporating the Learning Mastery Gradebook.
Up for the challenge? No matter how much teaching or course design experience we have, there are always ways we can improve. This winter semester, take a few minutes to review your course learning outcomes and create them in Quercus. Link one or more course outcomes with relevant assignment rubrics and make them part of your assessment process. You can even use the Learning Mastery gradebook so students can see which outcomes they’ve mastered and which still need further attention. Alternatively, the workshop materials including sample learning outcomes, assignments and rubrics are available as a Quercus export package that will be sent to you upon request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- The guide Developing Learning Outcomes is available on the CTSI webpage to support the development of effective learning outcomes for your courses; and
- The Learning Outcomes Quercus Support Resource will walk you step-by-step how to create Outcomes on Quercus, assess student performance in the outcomes, add the outcomes to rubrics and view student outcomes with the Learning Mastery Gradebook.
If you would like an in-person consultation about learning outcomes or the Outcomes feature in Quercus, complete CTSI’s General Consultation Request Form.
By Carol Roderick, Quercus Liaison, CTSI
Photo by Ryan McGuire, from gratisography