Guide to OBE
Developing a Programme Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan

What is a Programme Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan (LOAP)?
The 7-Step Approach to Developing a Programme LOAP
Why do We Need a Programme LOAP?

The following extract from an email circulated to PolyU staff by the Vice President (Academic Development) and Chairman of LTC in May 2008 tells us why it is important for the University to develop a LOAP.

The LOAP is important in that it ensures the systematic collection of assessment data for improving the effectiveness of our programmes, and demonstrates to our stakeholders, including employers and UGC, how well our students are performing with regard to the learning outcomes.

Outcomes assessment is an integral part of an outcomes-based approach to teaching, learning and assessment, and is a useful vehicle for continuously improving our programmes. The relationship between outcomes assessment and outcomes-based approach to teaching and learning is shown diagrammatically in Appendix 1.

Why is it necessary to develop LOAPs at programme level?

Ultimately our goal is to use the LOAP to improve student learning. We can do this most effectively at programme level because this is where we can make the best use of the data gathered to make any necessary improvements to curricula, teaching and learning that are identified. Below is a list of the ways in which a LOAP can bring benefits to your programme:

  • It enables you to review and improve the effectiveness of your programme, based on evidence of learning outcomes actually attained by the students.
  • It gives you documented evidence of your students' learning and achievement, based on the actual outcomes they have achieved, for accreditation or accountability purposes.
  • It showcases the quality of your programme and your graduates to appeal to prospective employers, students, collaborators and donors.
  • It contributes to the University's overall LOAP
Differences between subject grading and programme learning outcomes assessment

As teachers we regularly assess students' performance in individual subjects and assign grades. However, subject grades alone often cannot help to assess whether the programme as a whole is effective in achieving its stated learning outcomes. This is because:

  • Subject assessments focus on measuring the performance of individual students, not the overall effectiveness of the programme.
  • In subject assessment, we measure how well students are doing in a particular subject, focusing on the subject knowledge and skills rather than on the broader programme objectives, which often require students to integrate and apply learning from multiple subjects within the programme.
  • The one single grade which we normally assign to students in subject assessment often does not indicate separately how well students have attained the different generic graduate outcomes such as critical thinking, creative problem solving or teamwork skills, even if such skills are assessed.

Given the differences in purpose and focus, it is necessary to use different processes to collect different types of data for assessing programme learning outcomes, rather than relying on the routine subject assessments and grades alone. The different types of data to be collected and the processes to be used are explained in the sections below.