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Graduate student outcomes allow each program to determine its specific outcomes, develop means to assess whether students meet the outcomes, and use this information to engage in discussions to continually improve the program.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the process of developing and implementing graduate program goals and student outcomes the same as the one that was used to establish undergraduate student learning outcomes?  Will the same set of goals apply to all students?

    No. Graduate and undergraduate education are distinct, as are the learning goals for each. The process for developing and implementing graduate  program learning goals and student outcomes is intended to be locally defined and is likely to be different for every graduate program. Programs may choose to develop a single set of goals, and identify a variety of ways in which different students can meet those goals.  A program may also determine that slightly different goals are appropriate for different students in the program.

  • Does my program need different statements for Masters’ and Ph.D. programs?

    This is up to individual programs to determine.  Some may have common goals but assess the learning achievements of students at the two levels quite differently.  In this situation they might have a single statement.  Others may have a quite distinct Masters’ program and elect to have two statements that make clear what is intended for the Masters’ degree and for the Ph.D.

  • How long should my program's statement be?

    In the pilot phase of this initiative, two approaches were used:  one approach resulted in a longer document (the “original” approach) and the other, in a short—e.g., two- or three-page—document (the “streamlined” approach). The approach your program chooses to use is entirely up to the program.  Factors that may influence this decision include your program’s particular circumstances (for example, whether the program recently underwent an accreditation review or strategic planning activity that focused attention on educational goals). More information about the two approaches can be gleaned from the sample statements produced by the programs that engaged in the pilot phase of the initiative.


  • Are all research-based graduate programs required to have a statement of goals?

    Yes.  It is expected that all research-based degree-granting graduate programs will develop a statement of program-specific educational goals.  The statements are primarily for the benefit of the individual graduate programs; however, they will also be helpful for the University’s accreditation review.

  • How long is this process likely to take?

    The time needed to complete this process will vary according to how the program already defines its educational goals, the extent to which the program may wish to re-examine or modify its current goals, the questions it is interested in answering about itself, and the approach it elects to take in developing its statement.  Most of the pilot programs for this initiative were able to engage faculty and students, and develop statements that articulated their program goals and assessment plans, in a single semester.

  • What will happen to the document(s) my program produces related to our statement of graduate program goals and student outcomes? How will they be used and by whom?

    A program’s documents are primarily intended for program faculty and students for continual evaluation and self-improvement; however, some of the information programs provide will be maintained centrally and used to inform aspects of the University’s accreditation review.

  • Will my program's statement be made public?

    No.  However, some programs will voluntarily use all or part of their statements on their web page to provide information for potential applicants to understand the program’s educational goals and the program’s unique strengths.  This information should help ensure a good fit between the program and the students it admits.  Also, the statements of programs that are willing to share their information as models for other programs will be posted on this website.

  • Will my college or the Graduate School use my program's statement to make funding decisions?

    No.  The intended purpose of programs’ statements is primarily to assist faculty and graduate students in identifying relevant program goals and a plan for determining how students are meeting them.  However, college deans have local responsibility for determining that each program in the college has a statement relevant to its specific goals and an assessment plan, and they may ask to see statements developed by their college’s programs.

  • My program is nationally accredited and already has a statement of graduate program goals and student outcomes.  Why do we need to engage in this process?

    If your program has produced similar information for its accreditation review in the past, you may have materials that can easily be adapted for the current purpose.

  • Not all of the domains apply to the students in my program.  Are we expected to develop outcomes based on these domains?

    No.  However, these may be useful prompts and may generate additional goals a program may not have considered previously.

  • What resources are available to my program to help us determine our graduate program goals and student outcomes?

    Many resources are available to programs and are listed on the "Resources" section of this website. These include templates, faculty whose programs have already engaged in the process, workshops, and external resources.

  • What is meant by “assessing” program outcomes?

    The goals of the program relating to their graduate students should be evaluated in terms of both how they are to be accomplished and how the program will ascertain their achievement for individual students.  Assessment methods may include milestone events for students, like exams and oral presentations, or may be more informal activities that are expected of students at various stages, including presentations to peers in study groups, publications, and producing posters or other communication media.  Assessment may also occur in the context of program-specific activities such as seminars, courses or other activities the program offers to meet its goals. Most programs already have such activities and evaluation mechanisms in place and can articulate them. The assessment should help the program in their continuous improvement efforts.

  • How do graduate student outcomes relate to the academic assessment programs of the Provost’s Office?

    Regular program reviews, coordinated by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, are a formal mechanism to review and improve graduate programs.  The graduate student outcomes complement formal academic assessment of programs. While programs are strongly encouraged to make their goals publicly available on their websites, the process of implementing and evaluating the graduate student outcomes is internal and focused on improvement through open and inclusive discussions among program faculty and students.

  • How can students in my program participate in this process?

    This may be done in several ways, including surveys, discussions among students with reports back to the faculty, common conversations, or participation in a departmental or program retreat.  The intention should be to engage students in a conversation so that the outcome includes their aspirations as well.

  • My program has completed the process of defining its educational goals and has established a process for determining how students are meeting them. Now what?

    The program should first notify the college dean/associate dean that it has completed this phase of the process.  If the program did not also develop a long term plan for comprehensive review and updating of its educational goals and assessment methods, it should do this.  Once the program has articulated its goals and assessment methods, it should begin to evaluate graduate student outcomes.  The process is intended as a means to engage program faculty and students in periodic conversations about goals and outcomes with the aim of continual self-improvement.  The program should thus revisit its educational goals and outcomes assessment at some regular interval (e.g., every three years) to ensure that these are current and effective, and contribute to program quality.


    During 2017-18, the Graduate School will collect information from programs about their current educational goals, their methods for assessing student achievement of goals, the conclusions drawn from their assessment, and changes (or potential changes) the program will make based on this evidence.  This information will be collected in three phases.


  • My program is ready to begin identifying our program goals. How do we begin the process?

    A lead faculty (not necessarily the DGS) should be identified who will move the process along. An initial faculty meeting with student participation is a good starting point to explain the purpose of developing graduate student outcomes. This should be followed with in-depth discussions to articulate the graduate student outcomes. Also see "Getting Started."

  • Are free-standing minors and certificate programs required to develop educational goals and plans for assessing outcomes as part of this initiative?

    Not at this time.  However, such programs may find it useful to engage in a similar activity, as doing so may clarify the program’s educational goals and relevant graduate student outcomes, and may help identify effective means to assess students' attainment of goals.  Discussions among faculty and graduate students about educational goals and outcomes is expected to contribute to overall graduate program quality, regardless of the program type.

  • My graduate program offers tracks (subplans).  Does each track need to define its educational goals and plans for assessing outcomes, or can the program develop a single, overarching approach, with goals and assessment plans that apply to all tracks?

    Tracks (subplans) within graduate programs typically offer distinct curricula, and often different career opportunities for graduates. Individual tracks may also be subject to unique accreditation requirements. For these reasons, it may make sense in some cases for each track to develop its own educational goals and plans for assessing these, although common goals may also be identified that apply to all tracks.  Colleges may wish to advise graduate programs with tracks (subplans) about the approach that seems best suited to the program’s individual circumstances.

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