Every academic program at Mississippi State has set targets and goals for what we hope students get out of their academic careers—also known as student learning outcomes. These outcomes shape the plans and efforts of the university. Regardless of academic program or academic support unit, several learning outcomes are common across the institution.
Mississippi State Learning Outcomes
All academic, academic-support, and student-support programs either directly or indirectly foster the following learning outcomes:
- Realize specific learning outcomes for their chosen discipline
- Articulate how their collegiate experiences integrate with their career management process
- Demonstrate communication fluency
- Demonstrate quantitative literacy in math and science
- Engage in scholarly or scientific inquiry
- Incorporate diverse or competing perspectives when evaluating social problems and issues
- Be able to collaborate toward common goals with people who are different than themselves
- Cultivate behaviors that promote health and wellbeing and that reduce risk
Please note that OIRE does not limit learning to students who are enrolled in academic programs, but also includes faculty, staff, and other constituents who may receive some form of instruction or training. The primary focus, however, remains on students.
Some of the language in the outcomes requires further clarification. The following descriptions apply:
Relates to concepts or knowledge areas in the students’ disciplines, including major theories/literature, current trends, technologies, techniques, application of knowledge.
Articulate how their collegiate or professional experiences and activities are relevant to their career goals, and identify areas for professional growth.
Constructs and understands coherent arguments, narratives, explanations in written, oral, aural, and other communication formats. Uses correct style, tone, and medium for target audiences.
Seeks new knowledge or creative expression through scholarship and research practices. Includes synthesizing literature or determining appropriate theories for particular problems, as well as employing appropriate research methodologies. Note that the analyzing quantitative data is a separate intellectual skill.
Diverse Perspectives and Solutions
Frames a problem in terms of two or more political, cultural, historical, and technological forces; explores and evaluates competing perspectives (critical thinking); and presents reasoned analysis of the issue while demonstrating consideration of diverse perspectives.
Ability to work collaboratively with others toward common goals, particularly people who have different frames of thought. Includes leadership development.
Constructs mathematical expressions for issues and forms valid arguments based on mathematical reasoning.
Health and Well-being
Cultivates behaviors that contribute to the personal wellbeing, including autonomy, resiliency, self-efficacy, quality of personal interactions, and overall campus culture. The pursuit of health environments also involve efforts that reduce risk to self or others, such as conduct, academic integrity, financial security, and cyber security.
The official outcomes adopted by the university have been adapted in conversation with faculty, deans, and administrators of both academic program and academic support units. But the formalized creation of the original outcomes were developed by staff from Institutional Effectiveness, who took a bottom-up approach to developing the university-wide learning outcomes. These outcomes have been a part of annual assessment reports for many years, but have never been analyzed from a university-wide pespective until recently. Based on an extensive content analysis, these staff members evaluated 957 outcomes from 207 academic and 23 academic support units. Of the 957 outcomes, 789 (82.4%) were designated as learning outcomes and the remainder were program outcomes. A synthesis of these 789 learning outcomes revealed 10 broad themes as defined by the Degree Qualifications Profiles and the Council for Advanced Standards (CAS). These original themes are summarized as follows along with the number of outcomes from the academic programs and academic support units:
- Specialized/discipline knowledge 317 (40.4%)
- Career decisions 150 (19.1%)
- Communication fluency 115 (14.6%)
- Scientific and scholarly inquiry 114 (14.5%)
- Engaging diverse perspectives 47 (6.0%)
- Collaborative skills 16 (2.0%)
- Quantitative literacy 11 (1.4%)
- Global and civic engagement 9 (1.1%)
- Ethical reasoning 3 (0.4%)
- Intrapersonal development 3 (0.4%)
The content analysis was conducted primarily by two staff members. They first used a loose coding technique to identify broad themes, and then distilled those themes into the ten outcome categories. They each re-read the outcomes and matched each one to one of the categories, following a pre-defined content analysis protocol. Each staff member completed the coding on her own and then validated her research with the other. Whenever they could not agree into which category a learning outcome would fit, they consulted a member of the Institutional Effectiveness Committee. An Excel spreadsheet contains the results of this analysis, mapping every learning outcome at the institution into one of these 10 learning outcome categories.
In consultation with the deans' offices and several academic support programs, including Student Affairs and the Career Center, these outcomes were fine-tuned and are now formally adopted into annual assessment cycles from a more centralized perspective. A revised map of learning outcomes demonstrates the connect among all of the university's assessment plans.
Linkage to Specialized Accreditation
MSU holds accreditation with more than 25 specialized accreditation agencies. Many of these accrediting bodies have identified learning outcomes or competencies for their respective academic units. These units have already incorporated these outcomes into their annual IE report where possible. For example, the undergraduate units with the School of Engineering have identified the 11 ABET competencies as their desired learning outcomes. These learning outcomes were included in the content analysis described above, and the majority of them overlap with the 5 university student learning outcomes.