Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Susan M. Zgliczynski, PhD, Chair; Paula A. Cordeiro, EdD, Member; Antonia Darlene Pacheco, EdD, Member


accreditation standards, administration, California, community colleges, faculty, Leadership studies, higher education, student learning outcomes


As the public demands accountability in higher education, regional accrediting bodies are under pressure from external governmental agencies, as well as from key stakeholders, to demonstrate their effectiveness and more specifically, provide evidence of student learning. All regional accrediting agencies now have incorporated some level of student learning outcomes into their criteria for reaffirmation of accreditation. This case study describes how three California public community colleges are implementing student learning outcomes on their campuses. Administrators, faculty and staff were interviewed about perceptions and insights related to learning outcomes. Artifact analysis was conducted to establish credibility and data triangulation. Findings suggest formidable challenges exist in initiating this movement. Faculty cited fears that outcomes would be linked to tenure evaluations and lead to punitive measures from administrators. Some saw focus on student learning outcomes as the latest fad. Administrators stated that inability to document outcomes could result in external agency intervention. Sustainability of outcomes efforts, both in terms of manpower and fiscal resources, during a time of economic crisis was a concern. A number of important themes were revealed in this study. Communication was the key ingredient in the initial planning phases. Venues such as convocation, orientation, retreats and workshops were the most common avenues for conversations and dialog on student learning outcomes. Leadership was critical and presidents that were visible early in the process were instrumental in creating momentum. Faculty felt they had to “trust” the people in the process. Education in the form of workshops, conferences and literature readings often reduced resistance to implementing student learning outcomes. Finally, shifting to an “assessment” paradigm was cited as resulting in major organizational change for institutions. A beginning composite model effectively linking student learning outcomes activities to themes of the new accreditation standards is offered. The model is structured around improvement and provides a guide to training faculty, staff and administrators. This research identifies specific processes, strategies and implementation components of student learning outcomes that can be adapted or modified to fit existing institutional cultures.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access