Residential Curriculum Element #2: Learning Goals and Outcomes Developed and Based in a Defined Educational Priority

One of the important first steps in developing a curriculum is setting and defining an overall educational priority. An educational priority is the basis upon which all other goals and outcomes are derived. Based in the mission, context, and values of your institution, a priority should provide a broad statement about what learning will be occurring within your division or department. In many ways, this serves as a sort of “mission statement” for the curriculum–a short, bite-sized statement (or very brief paragraph) about what the curriculum is about and what students will learn.

Although institutions and curricula are diverse, there are nevertheless some common ends that most higher education institutions share. This is one of the reasons why educational priorities from different institutions tend to look similar. Priorities often include language about education for civic engagement, participation in a global society, and an appreciation of diversity and difference. Institutionally specific priorities may include language about specific career field preparation, religious or other institutional values, or education for sustainability or social justice.


From an educational priority, goals and outcomes cascade like a waterfall. Three to six broad-based goals provide clarification and further detail. Goals, and their defining narratives, provide more specific language about what students should achieve through participation in the curriculum. Outcomes, derived from goals, provide specific measurable statements that can be employed and honed in learning opportunities.

The following is an example of what a cascade may look like.  It includes a priority, goals (+ narratives), and an example of a set of outcomes (see Academic Excellence and Scholarship). Remember that every institution is different and that your curriculum may be structured somewhat differently than the example provided here. There are a number of equally valid approaches to structuring and organizing this.


Educational Priority

Residence Life facilitates the holistic development of Global Scholar-Citizens. Global Scholar-Citizens act in service to their communities on the basis of a coherent ethical system that acknowledges and appreciates the multiple perspectives and identities of people in a diverse world. The actions and service of a Global Scholar-Citizen arise from an interdisciplinary knowledge base and a well-developed sense of civility, ethics, and multiculturalism.

Educational Goals and Focal Areas

Academic Excellence & Scholarship – Students will gain the requisite skills and tools required to succeed in an intellectual environment and demonstrate academic and career skills.

Academic Excellence and Scholarship is the core mission of higher education. The development of critical thinking skills, creativity, and the ability to engage with and understand diverse viewpoints are important capacities. Developing the competencies and skills to be a lifelong self-directed learner and scholar will serve a student well throughout their academic career and in the workforce.

  1. Students will engage in scholarly discourse–gathering and evaluating evidence, developing reasoned opinions and conclusions, and engaging others in dialogue and debate.
  2. Students will demonstrate academic and career planning skills.
  3. Students will develop enhance their scholarly capacities through research, creative endeavors, and practical experiences.
  4. Students will develop and employ skills for success in study, time management, and academic pursuits.

Civic Responsibility & Engagement – Students will engage in individual and collective involvement designed to identify and address important issues in a community, understand its impact, and develop the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to create purposeful change for the common good.

Identity & Personal Wellness – Students will define and seek balance of one’s physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and mental health to achieve a purposeful and fulfilling life.

Multicultural Competence & Inclusive Communities – Students will actively engage human difference to create a culture of belonging in which people are valued for the betterment of and contribution to the larger community.

Sustainability – Students will apply knowledge and utilize resources that support current and future populations and global longevity of economic systems, societal equity, and ecological integrity.

Purposeful Leadership – Students will demonstrate a reflective, interactive, and ethical process of influencing the achievement of common goals within a group or community.

Key Questions:

  • What common elements of an educational priority with your institution? What makes your institution unique?
  • How will you share, demonstrate, and communicate your priority-goal-outcome cascade with others?

Reference: Kerr, K. G., Tweedy, J., Edwards, K. E., & Kimmel, D. (2017, March-April). Shifting to curricular approaches to learning beyond the classroom. About Campus, 22(1), 22-31. doi:10.1002/abc.21279

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