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To enter your basic research assessment results on this page, follow these steps:

  • Log in (above right).
  • Click Edit.
  • Choose the Rich Text tab above the edit box. Mac users take note: Safari doesn't support "Rich Text," but Firefox does.
  • Scroll down the page to find your department.
  • Replace the question marks in the table with the appropriate numbers.
  • Under the department comment heading, replace the boilerplate text with some reflection on your results.
  • Click Save.
Notes
  • You may conduct your assessment in either the fall or spring semester.
  • In the column labeled Total Number, indicate, for the semester in question, the number of students taking a course in your department in which a research project was required. In the column labeled Number Assessed, indicate the number of students assessed.
  • Reflection on assessment results is a critical part of the assessment loop and is required by SUNY as part of general education assessment. (SUNY has issued its own loop-closing guidelines; you can view them here.) Your reflection should be guided by the following three questions (though the questions need not be answered separately): What did this assessment show you about the basic research skills of the students in the assessed courses? In light of your results, are there any actions that your department might take or should contemplate taking? Did you learn anything from this assessment that might benefit other general education areas?

Results of 2009-2010 assessment of students' basic research skills

Anthropology

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

21

21

3

10

6

2

Evaluate this information

21

21

6

12

2

1

Synthesize this information

21

21

3

12

4

2

Support a well-organized argument with this information

21

21

4

14

2

1

Anth Comments

Basic research skills were assessed in Anth 224: Ethnography of Gender in Latin America.  The focus in Anth 224  was on assembling the basic literature on the core topics of the course and having students summarize and evaluate them in class discussions based on written work (student wiki entries which were repeatedly commented upon and edited by myself and other students).  There was no standard research project which required a defined thesis and the use of multiple sources as the rubric assumes, although throughout the course students were required to identify arguments and critique them through comparison of multiple sources on given topics.  In a class on gender and sexuality, students continually encountered competing perspectives (e.g., essentialism versus social construction) that explicitly or implicitly structured written arguments so students especially developed their ability to evaluate, synthesize, and “argue” about research throughout the course. The main research project in this class was the development of a wiki on the topics of the course which includes an annotated bibliography produced by students as well as collaborative writing about the course readings.  In a sense, then, the entire course was a collaborative research assignment, but students did not produce individual essays. Rather they worked individually on shorter written assignments and as groups on larger ones. 

To address basic research skills which would be useful in classes with research papers, students had two classes on research skills with librarian Kim Hoffman.  The skills addressed during these two classes included 1) creative and rational thinking relating a broad topic to more narrow and specific topics and their connected key terms, 2) developing search strategies using boolean logic, truncation and proximity operators to yield effective database results, 3) determining appropriate databases to satisfy the stated need for information, 4) accessing materials whether in print, full-text online or through interlibrary loan, 5) distinguishing popular from scholarly publications.  In the second class, students were asked to use what they had learned to research the topic of witchcraft in Latin America and if they posted these to the wiki they received extra credit.  Before the first research skills class, students were given a “pre-test” and at the end of the second class they were given a “post-test”. The questions were not the same on both tests, but addressed more-or-less the same topics.  The overall averages indicate that on the whole students learned something about research skills as the class average went from 40% on the pre-test to 60% on the post-test.  Some of the results were surprising.  For example,  based on the post-test, 21% of students believed that a New York Times article would be accepted as scholarly, and 31% of students believed that in assessing a web page, its presence on a university server was more valuable than the content author.  Yet, overall, the post-test showed a significant improvement in understanding of effective search strategies.

The focus of Anth 224 class was on critical thought, collaboration, and writing. The results obtained from addressing research and library skills during the course (and the pre and post-tests associated with these skills), along with the results expressed in the basic research rubric have convinced us to more fully integrate basic research and library skills into not only this course, but multiple 200 level courses in the anthropology curriculum.  This integration depends on continued collaboration with Milne librarians.

Art History

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

11

11

5

3

3

0

Evaluate this information

11

11

5

3

3

0

Synthesize this information

11

11

5

3

3

0

Support a well-organized argument with this information

11

11

5

3

3

ArtH Comments

The course used to assess basic research was ARTH 384 - Baroque Art (Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands).  The research skills being tested were intended to demonstrate that the students in the Seminar could perform research at the graduate level by using BHA (Bibliography of the History of Art) and JStor, as well as a variety of web sources (such as the The Catholic Encyclopedia), web pages from Museums and Collections, image sources (Google Image, Web Gallery of Art, Olga's Gallery).  In order to prepare the students for their demonstration of their ability to employ the Art Historical Indexes (BHA & JStor), I held a session where I demonstrated access to these sources and did a series of "test" topics to show the students the ins and outs of the indexes, as well as how to do basic and advanced searches.  Students were then asked to produce a bibliography for discussion at the next meeting.  Most of the students were able to produce a bibliography using both BHA and JStor. All students were able to produce a scholarly bibliography using JStor. Discussion focused on discerning between peer-review journals, different types of non-peer review journals and more general art magazines.

At the second meeting, I demonstrated a series of websites that could assist them with basic information about the works they chose for their topics and I extended the possibilities by demonstrating how to tap into more recent bibliography through Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. com, as well as their European equivalents.  I also made sure that all of the students knew how to use IDS.  I asked them to bring an annotated bibliography and web images on powerpoint to the next meeting. All of the students were able to demonstrate an expansion of their sources and their employment of powerpoint to present and discuss the images and information they had obtained from the appropriate websites.

At the third meeting, students engaged in a series of discussions distinguishing between primary and secondary source information they were finding in the scholarly articles and books they were reading for their topic.  Some students had problems distinguishing between different types of secondary source information - that is - being able to judge the difference between the nature of information to be found in a specialized article, vs that found in a more general monograph, vs that found in an exhibition catalogue.  Discussion ensued about the function of each of the different types of scholarly sources. 

At the fourth meeting, discussion focused on the arguments about specific artists/works presented in the assigned reading for the course with the intention of developing critical  analysis of the strength and the support structure of arguments.  In between meetings, I worked with individual students who were having difficulty either finding enough scholarly sources for their topics or were having problems understanding the nature of the specialized material.  At each meeting, each student was expected to provide a progress report of the information they were finding on their topics and they were also expected to begin discussion of how the information they were finding was helping them to develop their own argument.

At the fifth meeting, it became clear that some students were moving ahead with a more theoretical base for their arguments, taken from feminist theory, or structural theory or anthropological theory (all approaches discussed in class and represented by example in the literature chosen for discussion in the assigned reading).  At this point, it became clear, that while all of the students were able to use the indexes, find scholarly literature, understand how to summarize the arguments and employ the information to begin forming arguments, there was a divide between the students who were able to extrapolate arguments from a theoretical perspective and those who stayed with more concrete arguments - i.e. arguing from the perspective of the application of anthropological theory to arguing about the possible chronology for a work based on a stylistic comparison of several works.  There was also a middle ground, which was the development of arguments about patronage intentions and the reflection of religious issues in works - while not a theory-based argument, these were a step above the more concrete arguments.

In individual meetings, I did my best to bring along the students, who although meeting the parameters of research were not rising above the expected norm.  Some were more successful than others in making the transition from concrete to contextual argument to theory-based argument.

The level of writing and the organization of the papers and the nature of the support information met expectations in every case.  Some of the students gave me rough drafts on which I commented and others simply turned in final drafts that either met or exceeded expectations.  The weekly summaries and discussion of argument development was very helpful as all of the students were aware of how different topics could be developed in different ways and they were able to easily measure their progress against the progress of their peers.  I think the open discussion helped the slower students to gain a better understanding of where they were supposed to be heading in terms of variety of sources, employment of information and development of arguments.

In the end, although all of the students developed their skills to greater levels, it became clear that there was a group that exceeded all expectations greatly, a group that met the expectations and exceeded a bit and a group that met the expectations but did not move beyond a certain level of abstract thought, critical analysis and general awareness of the task at hand.  To a great degree I attribute this to the mixed nature of the class. Those who exceeded the expectations were Art History Majors, those who met without exceeding were taking Art History at the Seminar level for the first time.  Considering their neophyte status, they did very well.  Overall, it is clear that if the basic research skills necessary for Art History are broken down into segments and shared by the students in a class, all are able to meet basic research expectations.

Art Studio

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

ArtS Comments

Art Studio students take Art History classes which fulfill the basic research gen ed requirement.

Biology

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Biol Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

Business

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Business Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

Chemistry

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

22

22

5

8

9

0

Evaluate this information

17

17

1

10

6

0

Synthesize this information

17

17

2

12

3

0

Support a well-organized argument with this information

17

17

1

13

3

0

Chem Comments

 The assessment data was collected in Current Topics in Chemistry (CHEM 351, Fall 2009), Chemistry Senior Seminar (CHEM 352, Spring 2010), and Honors Research (CHEM 393, Spring 2010).  The capstone project for chemistry majors is either a literature review which is performed in CHEM 352 or a thesis comprised of original research performed by the student under faculty supervision, CHEM 393.  One of the four outcomes was assessed in CHEM 351 for 22 students and the other 3 outcomes were assessed in CHEM 351 for 10 students and in CHEM 393 for 7 students. 

 The first outcome, “locate information from a variety of sources,” was assessed in CHEM 351 which is offered only in the fall semester.  Students are exposed to current topics in chemistry through a series of invited speakers and selected readings from the recent literature.  Advanced literature searching skills are covered by a Reference Instruction Librarian in preparation for the final project which is to propose a research topic of the student’s choosing as a technical abstract.  All members of the department reviewed the proposed research topic and assessed the student’s ability to locate information from a variety of sources and develop a suitable topic for their capstone project presented in spring course, CHEM 352 or CHEM 393.  Our assessment of the “locate” outcome shows that 59% of our students either exceeded or met, 41% were approaching, and 0% did not meet expectations.

 The “evaluate this information,” “synthesis this information”, and “support a well-organized argument with this information” outcome were assessed using the literature review papers written by CHEM 352 students and the original research theses written by the students in CHEM 393.  Faculty evaluated each paper using the Basic Research Rubric.  An average of the scores was used for assessment purposes.  (Note that inter-rater reliability, the consistency of individual evaluator, is an issue in the use of any rubric evaluation and is true for our assessment present here.)  For the “evaluate” outcome 6% exceeded, 59% met, 35% approached and 0% did not meet the criterion.  For the “synthesize” outcome 12% exceeded, 70% met, 18% approached and 0% did not meet the criterion.  For the “argument” outcome 6% exceeded, 76% met, 18 % approached and 0% did not meet the criterion.   These results are in line with previous years.   The single most difficult things that we ask our students to do in the chemistry program is to utilize all of their course work and evaluate some aspect of the literature that interests them.  (Note that the department capstone experience is open-ended.  The choice of topic for the student literature reviews are completely of their own generation.)  Locating relevant scholarly work is a difficult task even once one understands the literature; likewise, evaluating primary literature sources at the undergraduate level is particularly challenging. 

Communication

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

93

93

36 (38.7%)

22 (23.7%)

19 (20.4%)

16 (17.2%)

Evaluate this information

93

93

32 (34.4%)

29 (31.2%)

19 (20.4%)

13 (14%)

Synthesize this information

93

93

23 (24.7%)

32 (34.4%)

23 (24.7%)

15 (16.1%)

Support a well-organized argument with this information

93

93

25 (26.9%)

35 (37.6%)

19 (20.4%)

14 (15.1%)

Comn Comments

In academic year 2009-2010, data were collected from three courses: a required introductory course, Comn 160 (Introduction to Mass Communication, spring 2010), Comn 362 (International Mass Communication, fall and spring 2009-2010), Comn 368 (Research in Media and Cultural Studies, spring 2010). Writing assignments, appropriate to the level of course, were assessed to measure the four categories of research skills. Assignments varied from short papers requiring students to locate sources and apply theories taught in the class (Comn 160) to an extensive semester-long research project/paper of 25-30 pages (Comn 368). Overall results show that 59%-65% of students assessed either met or exceeded expectations to locate multiple sources, evaluate them, relate sources to one another and a central thesis, and present an organized, effective argument. The department was particularly interested in determining whether any differences or patterns of change were noticeable in introductory versus advanced courses.  Generally, it was found that more students exceeded expectations to evaluate research, synthesize it, and develop an effective argument in upper-division classes. Comparative results between 100 and 300-level courses across all four evaluative categories, however, may have been positively skewed in the 100-level course (Comn 160) because of the number of juniors and seniors enrolled; this likely resulted in an overestimation of student research skills (e.g., synthesize, argue).  This may also explain why scores for the four research categories show somewhat greater standard deviations for the 100-level class as compared to the 300-level classes. For this reason, more refined measurement of research skills based upon student class standing is suggested in the future, especially since required 100-level courses in the program, due to enrollment pressures, are sometimes overpopulated by junior or senior undergraduates.  A number of salient issues were uncovered by assessment that deserve department consideration.  First, while the number of students not meeting expectations for locating and evaluating sources dropped significantly from 100-level to 300-level courses, there is room for improvement.  Departmental efforts to foster research and writing ability need to be reviewed.  Second, majors in the program, especially those in advanced classes, can improve their research skills in three ways: a) distinguishing between reputable scholarly and non-scholarly sources when conducting mass-media research, b) examining differences or similarities of research findings when constructing a cohesive argument, and c) moving beyond broad, descriptive writing to more focused, interpretive research papers.  Finally, when the department assesses basic research skills in the future, the mix of courses used for data collection ideally should span the three "tracks" of the academic program.    

Communicative Disorders and Sciences

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

CDSc Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

Computer Science

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

16

16

4 (25%)

2 (12.5%)

8 (50%)

2 (12.5%)

Evaluate this information

16

15

8 (53.3%)

7 (46.7%)

0

0

Synthesize this information

16

16

2 (12.5%)

8 (50%)

5 (31.3%)

1 (6.3%)

Support a well-organized argument with this information

16

16

0

11 (68.8%)

4 (25%)

1 (6.3%)

CSci Comments

This assessment is based on research papers written by students in CSci 341, a required course in the computer science major. All papers were scored against the rubrics for all four basic research areas, with one exception: one paper did not use external sources, and it was felt that scoring it on the "evaluation" rubric would be misleading (that rubric emphasizes not using inappropriate sources, which, technically, a paper with no external sources at all does quite well).

By far our students' weakest area was locating information. The main problem there was that many students failed to provide enough sources to adequately support their arguments. In other areas, students performed adequately, although with room for improvement (i.e., most at least met expectations, but many did not exceed them). Two particular improvements concern evaluating information sources and arguing from them: With respect to evaluation, a large number of students relied excessively on Web sources, or, to a lesser extent, textbooks; while the Web sources were, at least on the surface, appropriate to the project, more rigorously reviewed sources would be better. Regarding argument, students often made several individually coherent arguments without tying them together into a single thesis.

All of these problems seem to arise from students not recognizing how to apply principles of research writing to their work, rather than from students not understanding the principles in the first place. In the future, instructors who incorporate research papers into computer science courses will therefore be encouraged to given students ample, individualized, feedback on their work -- ideally by structuring research assignments so that students submit drafts to which instructors respond, with students subsequently revising the draft into a finished paper.

Education

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Educ Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

English

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

250

98

61

24

12

1

Evaluate this information

250

98

64

25

7

2

Synthesize this information

250

98

40

29

23

6

Support a well-organized argument with this information

250

98

34

31

27

6

Engl Comments

For the current cycle of research assessment results, the English Department collected data from two 200-level courses and two 300-level courses taught in Spring 2010. The total numbers sampled were 98, out of approximately 250 students required to complete research projects in all ENGL classes.

For both  200-level and 300-level courses, the results for the LOCATE and EVALUATE sections of the research rubric were consistent and rather strong among 200-level courses. The average for LOCATE among 200-level courses was 3.47 (on a 1-4 scale, with 4 as the highest) and 3.49 for EVALUATE; for 300-level courses, LOCATE and EVALUATE averaged at 3.49 and 3.58, respectively. For all courses evaluated, LOCATE was 3.48, and EVALUATE came to 3.54. In all four courses averaged together, the percentages of students exceeding the standard for LOCATE was 62.25% (24.49% for meeting the standard) while the percentage of students exceeding the standard for EVALUATE was 65.31% (25.51 for meeting the standard).

But the categories SYNTHESIZE and ARGUE tell a somewhat different story, with 200-level courses faring somewhat better than 300-level, yet all scores sinking to different degrees in comparison with LOCATE and EVALUATE. The scoring average for SYNTHESIZE on the 200 level was 3.37 (with 53.48% students exceeding the standard and 34.89% meeting); for ARGUE, scores averaged at 3.21 (with 46.51% exceeding the standard and 30.23% meeting).

By contrast, on the 300 level, the scoring average for SYNTHESIZE was noticeably lower: 2.8 for SYNTHESIZE. Note the percentages this time: 30.92% exceeding the standard, 25.45% meeting the standard, and 36.36% approaching the standard, with percentages of those merely approaching the largest of these three. For ARGUE, the scoring averages are again lower, with those meeting or approaching the standard both at 32.73%, larger than exceeding at 25.45%.  

 If we look at SYNTHESIZE and ARGUE across all four courses, the numbers are quite similar to the findings on the 300-level courses (for further details, see the spreadsheet here). Clearly, then, these outcomes suggest a discrepancy between our students’ ability to find sources as opposed to applying them. We should perhaps begin a conversation about the kinds of instruction and guidance we give about putting sources together to bolster an argument. For example, do the research sources enhance the argument, or are they more or less token references that show that research of some kind has taken place? Is the research not only relevant but thorough---i.e., do students use numerous important and relevant sources throughout the paper? Do these sources contribute to building a case that is both insightful and logically coherent?

Department members will be invited shortly to review the assessment results and to comment on them, using the wiki. When we started doing this last year, this type of conversation helped extend our discussions beyond the time restrictions of regular department meetings and provided a record of our deliberations; we will do the same with our research outcomes.

Foreign Languages

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

ForL Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

Geography

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

21

21

8

10

1

2

Evaluate this information

21

21

9

9

2

1

Synthesize this information

21

21

8

9

3

1

Support a well-organized argument with this information

21

21

8

9

3

1

Geog Comments

The basic research outcomes data were collected from senior Geography majors in our department's capstone course, GEOG 374 Geographic Thought, in spring 2010.  Our department chooses to assess this capstone course  as a measure of student work and departmental success in the realm of basic research.  In this round of assessment, 86% of our majors met or exceeded learning outcomes for locating and evaluating information, while 81% met or exceeded learning outcomes for synthesizing information and making well-organized and supported arguments in geographic research.  We are happy that the vast majority of students are meeting or exceeding these requirements, but we will strive to maintain and possibly improve them in the future.  As we proceed with the expected transition to a new curriculum to 4-credit courses, we will closely examine possibilities for improving our assessment methods as students progress through geography major requirements.

Geological Sciences

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

24

26

5

13

6

0

Evaluate this information

26

26

9

14

2

1

Synthesize this information

26

26

8

14

4

0

Support a well-organized argument with this information

26

26

9

9

8

0

GSci Comments

The data were collected in Paleontology (GSCI 361) for geology majors and Applied Geophyscis (GSCI 343) for Geophysics majors who graduated in 2008, 2009, and 2010.  The capstone project in Applied Geophysics does not require a literature review,  which is why there only 24 students evaluated for the first outcome (Locate information from a variety of sources).  Our students seem to do well on the evaluation and synthesis of information outcomes, with greater than 80% meeting or exceeding expectations.  The scores in location of information (75% meet or exceed) and ability to support a well-organized argument (69% meet or exceed) have been our focus. 

In an effort to improve Geology and Geophysics major’s ability to locate information Dori Farthing began working closely with Bonnie Swoger (Reference Instruction Librarian) in Mineralogy and Petrology (GSCI 210 and 220).  Examining the classes year by year, there has been an improvement in the number of students that meet or exceed expectations in this category from 2008 to 2010  (44% to 60% to 100%,).  Dori plans to continue the collaboration with the library and we will continue to track students scores in this outcome.

 We have had less success with steadily improving the “support a well organized argument” outcome. Between 2007 and 2010 scores on the Paleontology paper varied up and down (66% to 42% to 90%).  We hope to improve scores by changing the material covered in Structural Geology (GSCI 341), a course many of our majors take prior to Paleontology.  Students in this class are required to design a project to answer a Structural Geology question about a particular region as their final project and write a scientific proposal for that project.  Previously (2004-2009) students were not given formal instruction in class on how to write a proposal.  Starting in 2010 this was added to the course.  Since a “well organized argument” is central to good proposal, we hope this will improve students’ scores in this category.  If this is the case, we should see consistently higher scores in the “support a well organized argument” outcome in the Paleontology papers in the coming years.

History

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

98

34

11

21

2

0

Evaluate this information

98

34

9

23

2

0

Synthesize this information

98

34

1

5

15

13

Support a well-organized argument with this information

98

34

7

21

3

3

Hist Comments

            Many courses within the History Department emphasize the General Education Basic Research learning outcomes which require students to locate, evaluate, synthesize, and use information to make a "well-organized argument." In fact, we require two writing-intensive four-credit sophomore seminars (Hist220 and Hist221) that focus explicitly on the skills of research and interpretation. In the 2006-2007 academic year, the History Department assessed the Basic Research learning outcomes using capstone papers. The committee expressed some concerns about that approach, suggesting that because student papers at that level were "targeted to a specific topic," it was difficult for non-specialist faculty to assess them with any nuance. They also noted that U.S. topics were over-represented, something that they speculated was due to differing levels of access to sources. As a result, the Committee made two primary recommendations that the Department acted on in this year's assessment. The first was to implement self-assessment within upper-level electives. The second was to assess in each of the three broad content areas represented in the Department's course offerings. The Committee also recommended that faculty consider emphasizing the importance of primary research on their syllabi and through preliminary assignments leading up to research papers.

            Following the procedural recommendations from the last assessment, this year the History Department used a representative sample of its 300-level electives to assess the Basic Research learning outcomes. Although there are some exceptions, generally students enrolled in these courses have taken both sophomore seminars. By assessing Basic Research in these upper-level elective courses, we hoped to evaluate how well students are utilizing the skills that we emphasize in 220 and 221. Moreover, we were able to assess roughly equal numbers of papers in each of our broad content areas.

            Three total faculty members, one each in European, non-Western, and U.S. history, assessed a random selection of papers from their 300-level elective course. A total of 34 papers were assessed (14, 10, 10). In each course, the assessment was based on a final research paper although there was some variation within the specific requirements and assignments. In line with the recommendations of the last assessment, two of the syllabi included explicit directions about the minimum number of required primary and secondary sources for passing work on this assignment. In addition, one course included extensive preliminary assignments. All of the assignments emphasized the importance of interpretation.

            For the most part, our students were very strong in locating and evaluating sources. None of the students failed to meet the criteria for these learning outcomes and only 2 were considered approaching. Some students had more difficulty with synthesizing (with 5 approaching and 1 not meeting) and arguing (with 3 approaching and 3 not meeting). In their observations, the faculty noted that students still tend to focus more on narrative and story telling, rather than analysis. One faculty member observed that he believed that most of the problems he saw could have been addressed by students had they done rough drafts and revision. Unfortunately, this is not feasible for 15-20 page research papers in courses that are capped at 35 (and, as in this case, regularly over-enroll). There were no obvious variations between the different content areas, though faculty did note that topics do matter. We can expect more of students when they have good access to a sufficient number of relevant primary and secondary sources--either in our library, through IDS and online resources, or through nearby libraries.

            The assessment results suggest that our sophomore seminars are quite effective in helping students develop strong research skills, especially related to locating and evaluating sources. Although students continue to struggle a little more with effectively synthesizing evidence and using it to develop a strong thesis, it seems likely that additional work with drafts and revisions would help many students improve significantly in these areas. Many faculty already require drafts in our sophomore seminars and capstone seminars (and directed studies), providing important opportunities for students to work on these skills (which is likely reflected in the strength of many students). However, given class sizes, it is not feasible to require drafts in most 300-level elective courses.

            We believe this assessment worked well enough that we will recommend using the same approach in the future. (We may consider expanding it to all 300-level electives.)

Mathematics

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

59

59

43 (72.9%)

12  (20.3%)

4   (6.8%)

0  (0.0%)

Evaluate this information

59

59

57  (96.6%)

2  (3.4%)

0   (0.0%)

0   (0.0%)

Synthesize this information

59

59

29  (49.2%)

21 (35.6%)

8   (13.6%)

1   (1.7%)

Support a well-organized argument with this information

59

59

15  (25.4%)

23  (39.0%)

17  (28.8%)

4   (6.8%)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Math Comments

The Mathematics Department assesses basic research skills in several ways.  Students can enroll in Math 348, a one-credit class in which they produce a research paper, under the supervision of a faculty member and present it to an audience, usually a Great Day session.  This also satisfies the Oral Discourse graduation requirement.   In addition to this several classes including, Math 380 - Topics in Mathematics (Subtitle), provide an option for students to produce undergraduate research and present it to students and faculty.

In general, the results shown above indicate that mathematics majors are well prepared to locate and evaluate information from a variety of sources.  This is, we believe, an indication that they can perform effective searches using print and electronic media.  Nearly half of our majors exceeded expectations in synthesizing the information gathered.  However, only about a fourth of these students exceed expectations in the area of constructing and supporting a coherent argument using these resources.  This will be a departmental focus as we prepare for undergraduate research in 1010 - 2011.

Music

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

70

70

38

23

9

0

Evaluate this information

70

70

37

24

9

0

Synthesize this information

70

70

29

33

8

0

Support a well-organized argument with this information

70

70

24

35

11

0

Musc Comments

Seventy research projects were chosen from three classes: Musc 335 Studies in Instrumental Literature, Musc 227 Music History from 1750 to present, and Musc 222 History of Stage Musicals.  Two instructors reviewed the projects.  The results demonstrate that a high majority of students are either meeting or exceeding expectations.  We attribute the high numbers to the professor's systematic pedagogical process in which each student must go through varying stages of drafts and have individual evaluation meetings with the professor.  Such stages allowed for continued feedback and improvement.  In terms of "closing the loop," our department will discuss the the need to require all classes, which fall under such assessment expectations, to state the criteria of the Basic Research Rubric directly on the syllabus.  Another effort to "close the loop" should include the gathering of more data on the students who are assessed, such as specific majors, minors, and concentrators, to help us determine how we can better serve various learning needs.

Philosophy

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Phil Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

Physics and Astronomy

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Phys Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

Political Science and International Relations

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

?

?

?

?

?

?

Evaluate this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Synthesize this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

Support a well-organized argument with this information

?

?

?

?

?

?

PlSc/IntR Comments

Delete this text and insert comment here.

Psychology

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

239

239

101

113

18

7

Evaluate this information

239

239

93

111

21

14

Synthesize this information

239

239

74

115

32

18

Support a well-organized argument with this information

239

239

74

109

39

17

Psyc Comments

Research papers from seven of nine eligible 300-level psychology courses taught during the Spring 2010 semester were assessed against the basic research rubric.   To be eligible for selection, the courses must have Psyc 250 Statistics and Psyc 251 Research Methods as course prerequisites.  The courses were taught by five different instructors.  Students in the sampled courses were typically psychology majors with junior standing.  A total of 239 papers were assessed. 

Results indicate that most students are meeting or exceeding the standards for basic research on all four dimensions.  The data also show that there is a tendency for students to perform better on the locate and evaluate dimensions of the rubric compared to the synthesize and argue dimensions.

One aspect of the results that is not evident in the data is that there is variability across sections in the relative frequency of papers judged as approaching or not meeting the standard on all four dimensions.  Most of the papers that contributed to the counts toward not meeting and approaching the standards were generated by two sections.  In contrast, several sections reported few if any papers as judged as either not meeting or approaching the standards on any dimension.  Such variability in findings suggests at least two possible explanations.  Either the rubric itself does not lend itself to consistent application across a broad range of courses or the quality of student work varies significantly as a function of topical content. 

 Individual reflections on the assessment activity resulted in a variety of comments.  One instructor reported that the results from two sections indicated that instruction in the prerequisite courses pertaining to the evaluation of the external validity of research and the role of sample size in statistical power needs additional attention.    Another commented that the assessment suggests improvement in the instructions to students on preparing the research paper needs improvement.  A third instructor noted that the data showing students performed better on locating and evaluating research in her section is largely due to the way she manages the paper assignment; students must submit a preliminary literature search prior to the final submission of the project.  In all, the individual reflections reveal a serious consideration of how well our students are achieving in the area of basic research. 

Sociology

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

15

15

14

1

0

0

Evaluate this information

15

15

15

0

0

0

Synthesize this information

15

15

13

2

0

0

Support a well-organized argument with this information

15

15

12

2

1

0

Socl Comments

As part of their senior seminar requirement, students do a research based term paper. One faculty
member applied the rubric to all students meeting the senior seminar requirement in Fall 2009.

Theatre

Outcome

Total Number

Number Assessed

Number Exceeding

Number Meeting

Number Approaching

Number Not Meeting

Locate information from a variety of sources

57

57

14

22

17

4

Evaluate this information

57

57

9

19

27

2

Synthesize this information

 

57

19

20

11

7

Support a well-organized argument with this information

57

57

28

18

8

3

Thea Comments

The Theatre courses assessed are THEA 200: F/American Theatre and THEA 203: F/Theatre History Since the 17th Century.  29 students are assessed here from THEA 200, 28 students from THEA 203, representing all students who completed the research paper assignment. Each course has a major research project that is broken into steps including library research training, a rough draft, and a final draft. Because the assignments are broken into steps, faculty members were able to separately assess the four learning outcomes, finding the following.

These two courses represent two of the three theatre classes that include research assignments for the spring semester, 2010. Thea 305: Topics in Theatre History was omitted due to the unusual nature of the content taught this year. Traditional historical research played a smaller role in this class on masks and puppets than it normally does, and our campus criteria as written does not accommodate the acquiring of construction techniques, which was the primary focus of this year’s slot course.

These results are what I would expect, and are within an acceptable range. The learning outcome that the Theatre Program may wish to address is the evaluation of information; it is not surprising to find the lowest scores in this area. Many of today’s students need to learn that encyclopedias, online literature guides, and Wikipedia are not appropriate to academic research. Improved evaluation of texts might come from partnering with librarians.

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