Gavan Watson, Associate Director, ELearning, Teaching Support Centre
Kim McPhee, Teaching and Learning Librarian, Western Libraries
Nanda Dimitrov, Acting Director, Teaching Support Centre
In May 2016, Western’s Senate adopted our first official set of “Western Degree Outcomes” (WDOs). They are our locallydeveloped, institution-specific learning outcomes that will act in place of the Ontario-wide Undergraduate Degree- Level Expectations, commonly referred to as UDLEs.
After almost a year of consultation, the WDO working group, made up of faculty members from a variety of disciplines across campus, students, and members of the TSC curriculum team, identified seven areas of accomplishment that communicate “what a degree from Western means.” As the preamble to the WDOs articulates, these “Degree outcomes [will] serve as a shared language of achievement and skills that any Western undergraduate—regardless of disciplines or degree—might use to describe the result of their years of study to a variety of audiences. They will provide faculty and students with a common language of academic development and application. It is hoped that today’s WDOs will provide inspiration as well as guidance for program and course-level curricular engagement and innovation in the years to come.”
Over the next year, the TSC will host workshops, world café sessions and discussions with faculty members to explore how we can help students achieve these outcomes, how programs can assess this achievement, and share creative ways in which programs and courses in different disciplines have helped students practice and apply these outcomes. That is, while programs will formally introduce the WDOs into their curriculum via the program review process, we also invite instructors to consider how their own courses assist students in achieving, in part, these institutional-level outcomes.
As you explore our new institutional degree outcomes and align them to student work in your own courses, please consider sharing your approaches with us: Have you developed an authentic assessment for a particular outcome? How do the WDOs stretch your students in their learning and what are you doing to capture that learning experience? Have you found a creative way to help your students demonstrate the skills of professionalism, critical inquiry, creative thinking or resilience expected of them at graduation? While there will be common learning goals across disciplines, both assessments and approaches are sure to differ across campus and serve to inspire us to think anew about our teaching strategies.
Later this academic year, the TSC will also begin work on two new purple guides: the Guide to Western Degree Outcomes for Faculty and the Guide to Western Degree Outcomes for Students. We would like to highlight instructors’ efforts (both successes and stumbling blocks along the way) by including relevant instructional and assessment practices in our new guides. So please do get in touch with our curriculum team (at firstname.lastname@example.org) to share your strategies for implementing the WDOs in your courses and look for TSC programming later on this year.
Western graduates will have developed a sense of discovery that drives their ability to ask and frame questions, seeking to make connections that are not immediately obvious among phenomena and ideas. Western graduates will be able to explain the differences and linkages between the theories, research methods and core ideas of the disciplines they have studied, and analyze and solve problems according to the accepted methods of their field or fields. With their knowledge, graduates will have the ability to identify opportunities in their disciplines and see connections between other areas of study in order to imagine, create or produce novel solutions, works or performances.
Western graduates will be able to use disciplinary discourse, technical language, numerical literacy or other appropriate disciplinary systems of knowledge, research methods or ways of knowing to identify, locate and evaluate oral, print, graphic, numerical, scientific or digital information. They will be able to explore complex problems from a variety of perspectives, recognizing bias, and identifying missing or underrepresented voices. Working under conditions of ambiguity or uncertainty, graduates will be able to use disciplinary knowledge in order to research, reason and solve problems from a range of contexts relevant to practices in their disciplines. In proposing solutions, they will be able to describe limitations of the sources and methods they use.
Western graduates will be able to interact and collaborate effectively with other individuals and groups using the language and reasoning appropriate to the communicative context, within and across their personal and professional communities and cultures. Graduates will be able to present their ideas or perform their works in a way that is clear and accessible to a variety of audiences. Connecting with peers and experts, they will be able to communicate responsibly through digital and other means.
Western graduates will be able to adapt to personal and professional changes and challenges across the life course by being self-aware, resilient, and self-reflexive. In addition to their mastery of discipline specific knowledge and methods, graduates will be able to articulate a clear understanding of their own values, interests, and goals as well as the limitations of their own knowledge and perspectives. Accepting that change is ongoing, graduates will recognize the advantages of stepping outside of their comfort zone to continue to enhance their knowledge and capabilities.
Western graduates will be able to interact ethically and compassionately with others and with the natural and social world. Western graduates will be ready to act locally and imagine globally; practice perspective taking and empathy; understand the interconnectedness of the world as expressed through technology, culture, belief systems, economics, and politics; to understand and to exercise social, political and environmental responsibility both at home and abroad.
Western graduates will have developed habits of constructive skepticism, differentiation and intellectual adaptability in their approaches to phenomena, artefacts, issues, or arguments. They will be able to identify underlying assumptions, agendas, purposes, audiences, points of view, paradigms, evidence, implications, and logical strategies and thereby arrive at conclusions about reliability. They will bring habits of careful judgment, an appetite for further refinement, aesthetic engagement, and artistic expression or highly developed problem-solving skills to their pursuits.
Western graduates will be able to recognize the ways in which their conduct affects others in their field or fields, profession, community, or society. They will be able to work effectively with others practically (e.g. time management, conflict resolution); ethically (e.g. division of intellectual responsibility and credit) and socially (e.g. respecting cultural differences, work preferences). Graduates will be able to apply their studies responsibly to situations they find in the world around them, with the ability to explore ideas, issues, and the world at large from viewpoints other than their own.