How to Interpret Your Courses' "Student Learning Outcomes"

          These "SLO"s are required to be on all syllabi by Goucher's Administration in response to strong coercion by the Middle States Association, the organization that "accredits" us to grant you a college degree.  The aim of MS's current policies is to make higher education "accountable" by demonstrating that students leaving the classroom contain specifically predictable knowledge and skills which they presumably did not have when they entered (i.e., that teachers taught and students learned those things).  They threatened to remove Goucher's accreditation unless we installed such "metrics" in all courses.  The educational experience is obviously more complex than that, and you and I may have other, more personalized outcomes we seek that do not fit this "efficient-widget-production" mentality.  I welcome your thoughts about what you want to learn and why.  Nevertheless, such are the times we live in that the sort of mechanistic, even militaristic rhetoric you see in the "Student Learning Outcomes" is going to be used to judge the success or failure of all your courses.  Please do not be overly concerned by their presence.  As usual in human cultures, there is nothing new under the sun.  Someone with a calculator (or an abacus or tally sticks) will show up, concerned that people are having too much fun, not producing enough readily observable "knowledge stuff," or generally not conforming to what Jonathan Swift once mocked as "the mechanical operation of the spirit."  In medieval schools, religious auditors who measured teaching and learning success were concerned that courses resulted in the salvation of souls, which was equally impossible to measure.  Perhaps this too shall pass.