Initial Publication Date: October 25, 2013

Student Learning Outcomes in Introductory Oceanography

What are student learning outcomes?

A student learning outcome (SLO) is something that students should be able to do after passing your course. They are usually developed by faculty who teach a course, listed in a course outline or description, assessed to determine course effectiveness, and used to focus class activities. (Although a course might have different instructors, different pedagogies, and different activities, the outcomes should be the same.) SLOs need to be written in such a way that they can be measured. They need to be high level. Many experts suggest that an introductory oceanography course have 5-7 of them. Example: "Analyze and evaluate scientific data to create a conclusion about oceanographic processes." Learn more about learning outcomes (referred to as 'overarching goals' on the linked page) from the Course Design module.

Why have student learning outcomes?

Only with defined outcomes for student learning can you effectively decide which activities, visualizations, and resources to incorporate into your class. It's easy to find exciting activities and visualizations, but just because they excite you and the students doesn't mean you should use them. Choose the ones that align with the outcomes you've already defined.(Note: a number of accrediting organizations now require that student learning outcomes be defined for all college courses.)

The following outcomes as recommended assessments were offered from participants at the June 2013 Teaching Introductory Oceanography workshop in June 2013. They are not intended to be complete or unique. Participants were responding to:

  • What important outcomes should students take away from an introductory-level oceanography course?
  • What are the most essential learning outcomes that you would use to recognize success?

Example Learning Outcomes

After completion this introductory oceanography course, a student will be able to

+ Analyze and evaluate scientific data to create a conclusion about oceanographic processes

+ Predict distribution of organisms based on physical and chemical hydrographic data

+ Provide examples of the interdisciplinary nature of oceanography

+ Assess news with respect to ocean events or oceanography in general; read and interpret articles in the news

+ Articulate scientific arguments for why the oceans matter

+ Explain interrelationships of oceans to other Earth Systems

+ Evaluate the interaction between humans and the ocean
+ Use the scientific method at a basic level

+ Explain formation of seafloor features/landforms

+ Describe ocean chemistry and processes of nutrient cycling

+ Apply the 8 science practices defined in the NGSS

+ Understand all the themes recommended through the Ocean Literacy effort

+ Describe the major surface and deep currents in the oceans and explain their causes
+ Analyze the movement of tectonic plates, MOR and subduction zone
+ Relate scales and rates of ocean and ocean processes
+ Defend that the ocean is more than just a big puddle
+ Develop and communicate conceptual models of the ocean
+ Explain how physical and chemical factors in the ocean affect the climate in the past, present and future