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Undergraduate Student Learning Outcomes 2016-2017


Annually, the faculty of each undergraduate major, standalone minor, and required General Education courses examine student achievement of at least one intended learning outcome for their degree program. Through this work, the faculty confirm students are developing the skills and knowledge expected of a graduate in their discipline.  

For the academic year 2016-17, this page provides a summary of

Links to the intended learning outcomes for each degree are available here. An overview of the annual assessment process is available here. Undergraduate retention and graduation rates are available here.  

Please address questions to Laura Martin

Student Perceptions of their Learning

Across all majors, a large majority of seniors1 reported being highly or moderately proficient at the skills and knowledge expected of a graduate from their major or minor (Figure 1). These results are nearly identical for to those for 2013-142014-15, and 2015-16.

These seniors also perceived growth in their knowledge and abilities while at UCM. Fewer than three out of 10 reporting seniors (26%) recalled having high or moderate levels of proficiency in skills and knowledge particular to their major or minor at matriculation as freshmen, and fewer than four out of 10 reporting seniors (39%)  recalled having high or moderate levels of proficiency in skills and knowledge particular to their major or minor at matriculation as transfers (Figure 1).

Seniors also reported substantial growth2 in a core set of skills and knowledge expected of a bachelor’s degree recipient (Figure 2). Global ratings, like this, likely reflect the entire educational experience, including the major, General Education, and extra-curricular activities.

Faculty Perceptions of Student Learning

Slightly more than four in every five undergraduate programs (81%) were pleased with the skills and knowledge demonstrated by students in relation to the intended learning outcomes (Figure 3).3  This indicates that, on the whole, students were achieving program benchmarks or were otherwise meeting or exceeding the faculty's performance expectations.

In drawing these conclusions, faculty examined diverse types of student work. These included research proposals, lab reports, essays, oral presentations, final exam questions, homework assignments, and capstone design projects.

The percentage of programs reporting being pleased with student learning this year (81%) is consistent with those of prior years’ (88%, 83%, 78% for 2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16 respectively). These numbers reflect both positive evidence of student learning in a strong majority of programs over the past four years and, for the handful of programs that are either unsatisfied with current levels of student achievement on a particular learning outcome (13% in 2016-17) or unable to draw meaningful conclusions based on their assessment results (6% in 2016-17), candid engagement in improvement-oriented inquiry. The orientation towards improvement is also evident in the high percentages of reports in 2016-17 that identify strategies for improving student learning (94%, which includes programs that are pleased and programs that are not pleased with current levels of student achievement) or assessment methods (81%).

Faculty Actions to Improve Student Learning

While the majority of programs (81%) were pleased with student performance, 94% responded to assessment results by identifying actions to support continued improvement in student learning. This represents an increase relative to 2015-16.

Example actions included increasing the frequency with which students practice important intellectual skills throughout the curriculum, implementing new courses, expanding the use of case studies and research experiences, tailoring pedagogies for both low- and high-performing students, creating iterative assignments to provide students with formative feedback, and more deliberately highlighting important concepts in the curriculum. 

Budget Implications of Actions to Improve Student Learning

Of those programs identifying actions to improve student learning, 38% identified changes that require resources in addition to time from existing faculty. These resources include faculty lines for Lecturers with Potential Security of Employment, faculty with specific skills required to deliver recommended courses, training for teaching assistants, instructional supplies and shop time, and administrative staff support for coordinating course scheduling.

25% of programs explicitly cited continued support of professional teaching, learning, and assessment staff as important to future work.

Faculty Commitment to Examing Student Learning in Majors, Minors, and General Education

UC Merced faculty demonstrated commitment to systematically examining the effectiveness of their degree programs in cultivating intended student learning.  In 2016-17,

  • 88% of majors,
  • and 100% of standalone minors

submitted a report describing their efforts to assess student achievement of intended learning outcomes. No reports were submitted in 2016-17 for the general education program, which is being redesigned following its academic program review. 

Student Achievement: Graduation and Retention Rates

For information on undergraduate retention and graduation rates, visit

1Data from the 2017 Graduating Senior Survey. Values are averages across all students. For each learning outcome for their major, graduating seniors rated themselves as highly proficient, moderately proficient, barely proficient, or not proficient for two time points: the time they took the survey (Today) and, retrospectively, when they started atUCM (When started at UCM).

Data from the Spring 2016 University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES). For each skill responding seniors rated their abilities as excellent, very good, good, fair or poor for two time points: as seniors and when they started UC Merced as freshmen. UCUES items were revised, in some cases, between the 2014 and 2016 surveys. Data from the 2018 UCUES administration will be provided for 2017-18.

As represented in the annual learning outcome report submitted by each program, including major, standalone minor, and required General Education courses (n=16).  For each report, faculty conclusions regarding student learning outcomes were aligned to a Likert scale of very pleased, pleased, somewhat pleased, somewhat displeased, displeased, very displeased. In Figure 3 specifically, “Pleased” includes scores of very pleased, pleased, and somewhat pleased.