Foundational documents are statements and/or policy documents that articulate and shape the purpose, identity, direction, and future plans of your program or department. They can include:
Mission Statement: describes the primary functions and activities of your department, whom it serves, and what it aims to accomplish. The statement should be aligned with your institution’s mission.
Vision Statement: aspirationally articulates the qualities your department needs to have in order to fulfill its mission and what the results of fulfilling that mission would be. The statement should be aspirational yet attainable, and aligned with your institution’s vision.
Values Statement:articulates your department’s core values. The statement should be aligned with your institution’s values.
Creating and maintaining departmental foundational documents provides an opportunity for members of your program or department to reflect on, define, and state your department’s identity and values. Foundational documents form the groundwork for strategic planning (see the section on How to Create and Use a Strategic Plan) and program review (see the section on How to Undertake an Undergraduate Program Review), and contextualize
Program-Level Student Learning Outcomes
Statements describing what your students should know, understand, or be able to do as a result of completing your degree program. The outcomes emphasize the integration and application of knowledge rather than coverage of material, and are observable, measurable, and demonstrable. They are often abbreviated as program-level SLOs or as PLOs, and also known as program-level learning goals. The term “outcomes” is becoming the preferred term over “goals” or “objectives” because it makes it clearer that these are defined expectations upon completion of the program, rather than aspirational goals that may or may not be achieved. Examples include:
Identify, formulate, and solve broadly defined technical or scientific problems by applying knowledge of mathematics and science and/or technical topics to areas relevant to the discipline
Develop and conduct experiments or test hypotheses, analyze and interpret data and use scientific judgment to draw conclusions
Demonstrate and exemplify an understanding of ethical conduct in scientific and professional settings
Program-level student learning outcomes generally focus on overall program outcomes, in contrast to course-level student learning outcomes, which are specific to the knowledge and skills addressed in individual courses. Accreditation requirements typically require program-level student learning outcomes to be defined separately for each degree program (e.g., B.A., B.S., or minor), even though there will often be considerable overlap among these sets of outcomes. For more details, see the section on How to Assess Student Learning at the Program Level.
(see the section on How to Assess Student Learning at the Program Level). The process of constructing and revising foundational documents provides an opportunity to build consensus within your department on priorities and directions, and to ensure these are aligned with institutional goals, directions, and values. These documents can help focus efforts of faculty and staff, prioritize resource investments, distinguish among competing priorities when making difficult choices, and plan for the future. The documents help forge strong relationships with your institution’s leaders by aligning the core values and priorities of your department with those of your institution. Foundational documents can also help department leaders clearly articulate your department’s needs and advocate for support and resources. Students benefit from being in a department that uses such documents to guide and support improvement efforts. These documents can also be used to share your department’s mission, vision, and values when recruiting students and faculty, and when engaging in fundraising.
Design and articulate an inclusive process for creating and maintaining foundational documents
Implement your process to create and maintain foundational documents
Share and use foundational documents to guide departmental discussions and decisions
Evaluate the impact of your foundational documents and review them periodically
The Cycle of Reflection and Action
Where are you and what are you trying to accomplish?
Who should be involved?
What will you do?
How did it go and what comes next?
To be intentional about change, a department must have a clear understanding of its present situation and a vision for what it would like to become. Our cycle of self-reflection questions will help your department start conversations and structure thinking about how to get from where you are to where you want to be.
The Cycle of Reflection and Action will help you put the EP3 Guide to work for your department.