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This section provides an expanded discussion of the learning outcomes assessment process introduced above. It begins with a discussion of the need for program level assessment to meet AACSB standards.
The Focus is the Program
Learning goals can be established at different levels in the educational process.
At the course level, faculty members normally have detailed learning goals which are addressed via the course plan or syllabus. Course-level assessments are each faculty member’s responsibility and are not the focus of AACSB’s assurance of learning standards and related outcomes assessment processes.
AACSB is concerned with learning goals that are program-level in focus and, thus, broader, more general in nature.
Learning goals should reflect broad educational expectations for each degree program, regardless of major. They also reflect the major intellectual and behavioral competencies a program intends to instill in its students due to the total educational experience across a given program. Goals should be stated in terms of “what do we want our students to be?” The learning goals in this context should reflect those skills and knowledge areas that are most valued and should be demonstrated by graduates as a result of their overall, total educational experience. From another perspective, the learning goals should express
expectations that reflect the expected depth and breadth of student knowledge and skills that are the sustainable foundations for life-long learning in support of their professional and personal development.
What is a Program?
Since the focus of AACSB’s AOL standards is at the programmatic level, it is important to define “program.” The standards state, “ … The school must specify learning goals for each separate degree program”. As noted elsewhere, separate assessments for a major, concentration, or individual course are not required by AACSB, and will not be a substitute for program assessment, but can be implemented if the school must meet standards from
other accrediting bodies or wants to assess at this level. The one exception is that schools holding separate AACSB accounting accreditation should have an assessment process for the accounting major. This can build upon the system used for all other business programs.
Curricula content determines if one set or a variety of sets of learning goals are needed. For example, regardless of degree title, if an undergraduate business program has a common framework for general knowledge and skill areas and management-specific skill and knowledge areas as foundations for a major or concentration – that is, they share a common core – one set of learning goals may be defined for all undergraduate programs with this format. If, however, a school has more than one undergraduate degree program, and there are significant differences in the programs’ curricula, there should be some differences in the programs’ learning goals and thus separate assessments.
At the MBA level, if full-time and part-time programs are essentially the same in content, one set of learning goals can be used regardless of delivery mode. An executive MBA program may require a separate set of learning goals given the differences that are normally found in such program when contrasted to traditional MBA programs. Each specialized masters program will need a unique set of learning goals; however, some may be the same across all such programs where common skills and knowledge are addressed (e.g., communication skills may be assessed in each specialized masters program). AACSB standards address learning goals for doctoral programs in Standard 21. If the program has a different focus than what is described in the standards, a different set of goals will be needed.
Last updated : 2012-06-25