We have developed these resources to assist departments as they seek to review their programs in light of degree-level expectations mandated by the Ontario Council of Universities. We hope these resources will be useful whether you are beginning a review, responding to a recent one, thinking ahead a few years, or planning a new program.
On these pages, you will find:
- The 8 undergraduate degree-level expectations
- Templates and examples, including curriculum and course planning templates and learning outcomes examples
Distinct requirements have been established for undergraduate (UDLEs) and graduate (GDLEs) programs. For a comprehensive overview of the cyclical review process, please visit the University’s Academic Reviews website.
In the 1990s, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) mandated undergraduate program review audits through the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV). These procedures were to be undertaken every 7 years for each program in Ontario universities, very much like the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS)review processes that had been in place for decades at the graduate level. In 2005, OCAV adopted undergraduate degree-level expectations (UDLEs) and asked for compliance with these six outcome statements from all member universities beginning in the June 2008 review cycle. We need to show that students are meeting these threshold, base-level expectations through each of our programs and we have five years in which to ensure that procedures are in place to guarantee this. Universities – and individual programs – are certainly free to exceed the basic expectations, and indeed Waterloo has added two of its own in order to further clarify its unique strengths for the public and its community.
The impetus for such outcomes-based assessment of programs included the fact that Canada is one of a very few countries without any clear statement of the meaning of its undergraduate degrees. Ontario decided to take the lead in this in part also because it was becoming clear through such channels as the Rae Report that if we did not clarify and institute our own quality measures, external forces would surely do so for us. The UDLEs were seen as a homegrown solution by the Vice-Presidents and as such may be preferable to the kinds of quality control measures mandated in the U.K. or Australia, for example. At the same time as the UDLEs were created, so too were graduate degree-level expectations (GDLEs) for both masters and PhD.
Frequently asked questions
What is OCAV?
The Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents. OCAV is affiliated with the Council of Ontario Universities.
What are UDLEs?
Undergraduate degree-level expectations – the learning outcomes expected for all students awarded undergraduate degrees in Ontario.
What are outcomes?
Outcomes are statements that describe what students will be able to know (cognitive), do (psychomotor), and feel/model (affective) by the end of the program or course of study. Outcomes describe measurable behaviours. Most outcomes have three parts: an action, a topic, and a criterion or context. Note that terminology is used interchangeably; you may find "outcomes," "objectives," and "goals" used to mean the same thing in different settings. The semantics are less critical than the essential notion: statements describing what students will have learned, articulated in a way that allows that learning to be measured.
Where are outcomes used?
Outcomes can be written at the program level, the course level, and the individual unit level. Even when we write assignment criteria, we are writing what we want students to be able to demonstrate in response to their learning. Program outcomes will outline the learning that will be common to all graduates of the program. Course outcomes will articulate the specific learning for each course. Examples of outcomes can be found in many textbooks. Each chapter may have stated outcomes or objectives, and within each chapter, mini steps may be set along the way so the learner may test their knowledge.
Do I start with the program outcomes or course outcomes?
While the OCAV UDLEs describe program outcomes, you may wish to build toward them by first creating course outcomes. Alternatively, you may wish to start with overall program outcomes. Where you begin is your choice.
How do I write (or improve) learning outcomes?
The aim is to write statements of what students will learn that incorporate an action verb, an observable behaviour, and if relevant, criteria for performance. Well written learning outcomes lead neatly into how they will be evaluated.
Where can I find examples of learning outcomes?
An excellent list is available from the Universty of Ottawa's Centre for University Teaching. It has created a Directory of University Program Learning Outcomes. It is an extensive database of outcomes from programs around the world, with a focus on Canadian and American institutions. Outcome samples are available at the undergraduate, masters and PhD level.
How we can help
The following chart provides an overview of how CTE can assist departments as they conduct program reviews.
For more information or assistance, please contact Veronica Brown, Senior Instructional Developer, Curriculum and Quality Enhancement.
- Council of Ontario Universities
For more than 40 years, the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) has been working to improve the quality and accessibility of higher education in Ontario. The COU is affiliated with the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents (OCAV).
- Creating course outlines: A tip sheet
This tip sheet was developed by the Centre for Teaching Excellence.
- Writing learning outcomes
A tip sheet developed by the Centre for Teaching Excellence.
- Curriculum Development at York University
This web site is designed to allow universities across Ontario to share resources on how to develop degree-level expectations and do curriculum development consistent with the OCAV guidelines.
- Guidelines for Writing Learning Outcomes from the University of Glasgow These guidelines have been developed by Dr Sarah Mann of the University of Glasgow's Learning and Teaching Centre.
American Association of Law Libraries (2008). Writing learning outcomes.
A straightforward page on the basics of writing learning outcomes, with clear rationale for why they should be written clearly, and tips on doing so.
Gronlund, N. E. (1995). How to Write and Use Instructional Objectives. (5 th edition). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.
A classic guide and very understandable and approachable text.
Jenkins, A., & Unwin, D. (1996). How to write learning outcomes.
Clear explanation of how to write outcomes, with sample from math and computing. Provides a list of verbs to use in outcomes to link them to levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.
Mager's Tips on Instructional Objectives (1999).
Background detail on writing instructional objectives, but reading the interactive book is much more fun.
Mager, R. F. (1975). Preparing instructional objectives (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: Fearon-Pitman.
Yes, it’s old, but if you’re looking for some more detail on understanding the components of outcomes/objectives and how to write them, this interactive book is a great resource.
Mager, R. F. (1973). Measuring instructional intent or got a match? Belmont, CA: Fearon-Pitman.
When you’re ready to think about matching your assessments to your outcomes, this book will walk you through how to do it.
York University (n.d.). Curriculum Development Guidelines for Degree-Level Expectations from the Ontario Council of Academic Vice-Presidents.
Excellent links; particularly good for examples of degree level expectations from various disciplines.
Curriculum planning books
The following books are available in the Centre for Teaching Excellence library (EV1 325).
Association of American Colleges (1992). Program review and educational quality in the major: A faculty handbook. Vol 3 of Liberal Learning and the Arts and Sciences Major. Washington, DC: AAC.
Clifton, C., & Grant Haworth, J. (Eds.)(1990). Curriculum in transition: Perspectives on the undergraduate experience. Needham Heights, MT: Ginn Press (Simon/Schuster).
Diamond, R. M. (1998). Designing and assessing courses and curricula: A practical guide(Revised Edition). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Gaff, J. G., Ratcliff, J. L., & Associates (1997). Handbook of the undergraduate curriculum. A comprehensive guide to purposes, structures, practices, and change. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Stark, J. S., & Lattuca, L. R. (1997). Shaping the college curriculum: Academic plans in action. Boston, MT: Allyn and Bacon.