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Undergraduate Assessment Methods

Undergraduate Assessment Methods

Because the number of majors in this department is small (typically on the order of five/year), instruction of upper-division courses is always done in a small class environment. Much instruction therefore occurs in a one-on-one interaction between instructor and student. Hence, instructors of these upper-division courses are able to gauge the needs of the students such that the expected outcomes can be effectively achieved. Assessment thus is an on going activity in this department and inevitably leads to continuous adjustment of teaching methods and course content to best help our majors achieve the expected outcomes. Furthermore, members of this department are unanimous in the interpretation of meanings of grades for majors in 3000- and 4000-level courses: C represents the minimum acceptable achievement of expected outcomes, B represents good achievement of expected outcomes, and A represents outstanding achievement of expected outcomes.

To supplement what we already consider to be an effective assessment program described above, the following assessment methods will be employed:

  1. We believe that one of the most valuable times for assessment is immediately following the completion of a course. This allows us to address such issues as whether material presented in the course was consistent with our Expected Outcomes, whether the prerequisites for the course allowed for coverage of material addressing Expected Outcomes rather than spending time on background, and whether grades really measure well the degree of achievement of Expected Outcomes. In addition, this gives both from students and instructors the opportunity to suggest possible changes in our courses in order to enhance the achievement of Expected Outcomes. We thus will perform Course Followup Assessments described below:
    1. Each student in a 3000- or 4000-level course who is a major in the department will be given, near the end of the quarter, a "STUDENT ASSESSMENT FORM". This will be distributed by the instructor and the students will return it to the Department Head after final grades in the course have been assigned.
    2. Each instructor of a 3000- or 4000-level course will be given, by the Department Head, an "INSTRUCTOR ASSESSMENT FORM". This will be filled out and returned to the Head.
    3. Each year the Head will assign three faculty to serve on a departmental Assessment Committee. The Head will forward copies of all aforementioned assessment forms to this committee. The committee will carefully review all forms and make recommendations to the Head for problem areas which need attention. In consultation with the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee the Head will explore ways to address problems thus detected.
  2. An important question is the longer-term retention of Expected Outcomes. To this end we will require all majors in this department to take a Senior Exit Examinationsometime in their last semester of residency. This exam will be designed and administered at the departmental level and will test the students' achievement in all academic areas (but not laboratory skills) included in our Expected Outcomes document. The results of these examinations will be also conveyed to the departmental Assessment Committee (see above) and they will be used to provide additional data for the Committee's recommendations. The Head will maintain records of these examination results so that useful statistical information will be available when assessing our programs.
  3. Finally, since we already note that some of the most valuable feedback regarding assessment of the quality and appropriateness of our programs comes from previous graduates, we will, at five year intervals, send Questionnaires to Graduates which will seek their counsel on how our undergraduate programs might be improved to better prepare students for post-graduate employment.