Chapter 2 – Step 2 in the Process

Action 5: Establish the Essential Role of Program Outcomes

Identify the essential role of defining program outcomes in creating an aligned curriculum design.

Program outcomes can be described in various ways—most simply, they are what prepared graduates are able to do by the end of the program. Sometimes, it makes sense to name this something other than ‘program outcomes’ to better fit the context.

Alignment occurs when you set a clear target for what graduates can do, design the learning so that students are likely to learn to do it, and design assessments that check to see if students can do what you intend.

This video explains the importance of curricular alignment when designing or redesigning programs. 



It is vitally important for curriculum work teams to internalize the fundamental curriculum design principle of “constructive alignment” and to recognize that program outcomes are what focus the design process. Year and course-level outcomes need to flow from the program outcomes.

When program outcomes are unclear, or are not the focus of design, the result will be a disconnected program – potentially a collection of courses instructors most wanted to teach with assessment methods they most wanted to use.

This will make leaders, instructors and students unable to describe students’ competence upon completion.  A rationale for the progress of teaching and learning will be missing.  


Process Tips ✔

Use the video, An Introduction to Curricular Alignment to orient your team to curricular alignment and discuss its importance for design.

Invite GMCTL to offer tailored workshops for your team on this topic.

Determine what the right wording is for your group for describing “program outcomes.”  Some examples are:

  • Program-level Learning Outcomes
  • Graduate attributes
  • Graduate competencies
  • Knowledge, Skills, Values
  • Program Domains
  • Entry-to-practice abilities
  • Disciplinary identity


Good Signs! 🏁

The role of program outcomes in an aligned curriculum are understood by those designing the curriculum.

⊕   A workshop or group processes have allowed practice with applying the concept

⊕  The principle of constructive alignment is already used among group members in course design and instructional design



Warning Signs  🏴

Faculty (a few, some, or many): 

⊗  Regard this information as educational jargon

⊗  Are hanging onto the idea that expressions of course content or topics covered are the same as students becoming competent, or as program outcomes being met




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Curriculum Design Guide Copyright © by Susan Bens; Sara Dzaman; Aditi Garg; and Wendy James is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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