Methods of Creating a Successful Learning Outcome Structure

September 11, 2014 Michelle Cruz

Accurately assessing how your students are performing is not an easy task. You can write intricate questions and create complex case studies, but none of that will matter if there is no way to measure their success. By far, the most efficient way to accomplish this is through using embedded assessment with a hyper organized outcome (or “category”) structure. Below you can see a diagram of how the Nurse Midwifery Program at Oregon Health and Science University has constructed this process, and how easily it could be applied to many other academic programs.

The best place to start is with the core categories for your program. Next, create an easy way of organizing questions; we split our items into knowledge-based questions and judgment-based questions.

If you want to get really detailed, once the bulk of your questions have been organized into knowledge or judgment within each core category you can refine even further. We did this by creating subcategories within knowledge and judgment that are specific to each core topic. The ultimate goal being to create a category structure that acts as a guide for faculty who are creating questions, and easy for those tasked with placing questions in their appropriate category.

Question examples:

1. Vitamin K is usually administered to the newborn for the prevention of:

The question above is categorized as reflected below
Newborn (NB) > NB Knowledge > (NB) Meds/supplements

2. Mr. Martin is a 72-year-old smoker who comes to you for his hypertension visit. You note that with deep palpation you feel a pulsatile mass which is about 4 centimeters in diameter. What might you consider doing next?

The question above is categorized as reflected below
Primary Care (PC) > (PC) Judgment > (PC) Cardiovascular; (PC) Geriatric

This structure has enabled our program to obtain very specific information on our students’ attainment of knowledge. Using this method for creating a category structure has made it simple for us to analyze our students’ exam results and gain a clear picture of their attainment of knowledge. It becomes very clear where deficiencies lie for each individual student, giving us the ability to moderate our course content to better cater to each student. Our program also uses this information to create personalized study plans for students, and also for curriculum development.

This process may seem daunting at first, but once in place, the benefits for our students, faculty, and program are endless. Seeing our program grow and flourish has been worth the time spent getting it set up and in place.


About the Author

Michelle Cruz

Michelle Cruz has been involved in advising, peers, students, and faculty for 6 years, starting as a psychology peer advisor at the University of Oregon. She is passionate about working with youth and volunteers with several nonprofits that foster the success of underserved youth. She is also a committee member for Emerging Professionals of Portland. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the culinary wonders of Portland, Oregon.

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