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Greater Returns: IFSA’S Student Learning Outcomes

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March 16, 2021

This past fall, IFSA gathered input from key stakeholders to finalize Global Learning Goals (GLGs) and Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). Learning goals are “broad statements (macro expectations) about what students will know and be able to do upon completion of a course or program,” (Deardorff 2015:7). Generally, these goals are too broad to be measurable on their own and need to be further specified with detailed learning outcomes, but they provide the general direction we want students to be heading on IFSA programs. Learning goals are the destination.

Student learning outcomes are more specific, measurable statements of what students will know or be able to do after participating in IFSA programs​. If we think about IFSA’s Global Learning Goals as the destination, IFSA’s Student Learning Outcomes are the landmarks that show we are on the right route to our destination.

IFSA’s Global Learning Goals

Through participating in IFSA programs, it is our intention that: 

  • Students will develop critical perspectives, knowledge, and skills that promote long-term academic, personal, and professional growth.  
  • Students will apply these critical perspectives, knowledge, and skills to enrich their lives and the world.  

The Global Learning Goals are grounded in IFSA’s organizational mission and vision, as well as our four commitments—Inclusive Excellence, Individualized Learning, Intercultural Agility, and Enduring Impact. The GLGs also focus on creating global learners. At IFSA, we draw specifically on the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ (AAC&U) definition of global learners as students who:  

  • “[are] informed, open-minded, and responsible people who are attentive to diversity across the spectrum of differences,”
  • “seek to understand how their actions affect both local and global communities,” and
  • “address the world’s most pressing and enduring issues collaboratively and equitably,” (AAC&U 2014, 1).

IFSA’s commitments and the NACE Career Readiness Competencies (2019) are more specifically represented in the SLOs.  While we understand that students will arrive with different levels of experience, our programs are designed to help students build proficiency in the areas of understanding identity, global awareness, intercultural agility, and enduring impact, regardless of prior experience.

IFSA Student Learning Outcomes

  • Understanding Identity: Students will develop a critical understanding of their own intersectional identities and how they are positioned in local and global systems of power and privilege. 
  • Global Awareness: Students will discuss issues facing the host country in the context of globalized economic, political, social, and ecological systems and develop a critical awareness of how their worldview is shaped by globalized systems through meaningful engagement with worldviews that differ from their own. 
  • InterculturalAgility: Students will build cultural self-awareness and develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills to effectively and respectfully navigate cross-cultural interactions.  
  • Enduring Impact: Students will integrate their academic experiences, skills, and global perspectives into their future goals, identify areas for continued growth, and prepare for their roles in individual and collective responses to pressing local and global issues. 

The GLGs and SLOs guide IFSA’s program design, course development, and program delivery to ensure that students are developing into critical, lifelong global learners through their IFSA experience. The SLOs in particular are woven into almost every aspect of IFSA programs and provide the foundation for student learning at IFSA. The SLOs provide the basis for learning outcomes in all IFSA-taught classes, inform IFSA’s excursions and co-curricular activities, and are key factors in the various program redevelopments taking place across the IFSA portfolio.

The Student Learning Outcomes also provide the foundation for the on-going redevelopment of the IFSA Student Roadmap (formerly Learning Plans) and factor prominently in IFSA’s newly revised assessment strategy.


Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). (2014). Global Learning VALUE rubric. Retrieved from https://www.aacu.org/value/rubrics/global 

Deardorff, D. (2015). Demystifying outcomes assessment for international educators: A practical approach. Stylus Publishing.

National Association of Colleges and Employers. (2019). “Career readiness for the new college graduate. A definition and competencies.” Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/uploadedfiles/pages/knowledge/articles/career-readiness-fact-sheet-jan-2019.pdf.