Learning Outcomes and Assessment

Committee: Kristin Getter (chair), Marcus Duck, Norm Lownds, and Brad Rowe

The Learning Outcomes and Assessment Committee (LOAC) was created in December 2015 for the express purpose to formulate and assess student learning outcomes for our Bachelors of Science (B.S.) in Horticulture  and 2-Year Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) Certificate programs. 

What are Student Learning Outcomes?

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) are the key component of a degree assessment plan.  These are concise statements that indicate the knowledge, skills, and abilities that students in a degree program are expected to demonstrate at pre-determined points in their studies, as well as at the conclusion of their studies.  Our B.S. in Horticulture and 2-year IAT certificate learning outcomes were developed based upon an American Society for Horticultural Science publication (Pritts and Park, 2013) and were evaluated to make sure they aligned with MSU’s undergraduate learning goals and reflect the Higher Learning Commission priorities.

The Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Process

Outcomes assessment is a continuous curriculum improvement process (Figure 1) that develops the connections between course outcomes and assessments and overall program assessment to drive continuous program improvement. Learning outcomes are aligned to assessments both for the program and at the classroom level.  Those assessments are used to revise the curriculum and tied to teaching evaluations.


Figure 1.  The outcomes assessment continuous curriculum improvement process

We are using both direct (quizzes, tests, group projects, case studies, written papers) and indirect (employer surveys) measurements for outcome assessment. Our goal is for 80% of our students to receive a 2.5 or higher on direct measurements and for 80% of our students to receive a 4+ (out of 5) on indirect measurements (where 1=unsatisfactory and 5=outstanding).


Student Learning Outcome Assessment Data

Indirect measurement began in Summer 2016 and the employer evaluation results are below.  Direct assessment began in Fall Semester 2016 and data will be available in early Spring Semester 2017.

2016-2017 Learning Outcomes Assessment Results – Department of Horticulture, Undergraduate Courses (HRT)

Learning Outcome
Class Evaluated Assessment Results
1. Apply concepts of horticulture science to select, manage, and improve plants and their products
HRT 493* 4.0
2. Demonstrate competence with laboratory and/or field-based technologies used in modern horticulture
HRT 493* 4.2
3. Anticipate and recognize problems, identify causes of these problems, quantify potential impacts, analyze options, identify viable solutions, and evaluate actions and consequences of treatments and interventions
HRT 493* 4.1
4. Describe social, spiritual, and cultural importance of plants to historical and contemporary communities of people
HRT 203
HRT 361
5. Use multiple sources, including current and older literature, to find, evaluate, organize, and manage information related to horticultural systems
HRT 361
6. Identifies and applies, as appropriate, quantitative methods for defining and responding to horticultural problems.
HRT 361
7. Understand how global issues including climate change, energy use, water availability, and/or food safety impact sustainability of horticultural systems locally, nationally, and globally
HRT 361
8. Apply principles of accounting, business law, labor, marketing, and personnel management to a horticultural business and contribute to developing various components of a business plan
HRT 404 Data coming in Summer 2017
9. Demonstrate professionalism and proficiency in skills that relate to horticulture through leadership and the ability to collaborate and work in teams
HRT 404 Data coming in Summer 2017
10. Develop thoughtful, clear, and consistent perspectives on ethical and moral issues related to horticulture
HRT 404 Data coming in Summer 2017
11. Communicate effectively with various audiences using oral, written, and visual presentation skills, and contemporary networking/social media technologies
HRT 493*
HRT 404
Data coming in Summer 2017
12. Quantify economic importance of plants in managed ecosystems and the impact of horticultural crops in food systems
HRT 404 Data coming in Summer 2017

*results on a scale of 1 (unsatisfactory) to 5 (outstanding) where the goal is to be 4 or higher.

2016 Employer Evaluation of Student Interns

Of the 31 BS Horticulture students participating in internships during the Summer 2016 semester, 13 employers responded to two voluntary surveys.  The first survey evaluated the individual student’s performance on the job and questions were asked on a Likert 5-point scale (where 1=unsatisfactory and 5=outstanding; Figure 2).   Average student scores for the ten metrics were all above a score of 4 (‘Very Good’ or better), indicating our students have a positive attitutude towards work, exhibit excellent work initiative and professionalism, produce high quality work, are adaptable, dependable and cooperative.


Figure 2. 2016 Indirect Measurements of Student Learning Outcomes: Employer Evaluation of Student Interns (n=13).


The second employer survey asked student supervisor’s to evaluate MSU’s horticulture program as it pertains to preparing students to work in the industry and questions were asked on a Likert 5-point scale (where 1=unsatisfactory and 5=outstanding; Figure 3).  Average program scores for the four metrics were all a score of 4 (‘Very Good’) or better, indicating our students are prepared for industry work, have demonstrated competence with lab/field-based technologies, are able to anticipate, recognize, and solve problems, and are able to communicate effectively in the work environment.


Figure 3.  2016 Indirect Measurements of Student Learning Outcomes: Employer Evaluation of MSU’s Horticulture Program (n=13).