Over the course of the past 5-6 years, discussions emerging from assessment activities have resulted in a number of transformations. Our approach to assessment reflects the history department’s emphasis on the importance of research skills in all history courses. The HIST 220 and 221 seminars are intended to introduce students to analytical skills specific to historical research. Upper level electives are intended to reinforce these skills and expose students to the specific challenges of conducting research in different fields. The capstone is intended to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their accumulated skills in the context of a substantial research project. As a result of assessment activities, faculty have been encouraged to: more explicitly frame research skills as cumulative (underscoring how skills learned in INTD 105 and the two sophomore seminars in history should be built into research projects in upper level electives and senior papers); spend more time in class introducing students to relevant sources in particular topics (some faculty, for example, distribute preliminary bibliographies, run in class instruction on how to locate specialized primary sources, and hold library research sessions); design assignments that better reflect the kinds of research materials available to students on campus; and encourage students (especially those working on senior capstone projects) to conduct research at local research libraries (particularly the University of Rochester) and to apply for research travel money available through alumni donations and the Geneseo Foundation. Because assessment is a regular feature of annual department business, these reminders have become part of the normal academic cycle, and assessment reports suggest that over time, the emphasis that we place on these skills is making a difference.
Some recent assessment results have pointed to shortcomings in student research, particularly with respect to locating source material (both primary and secondary). The department has discussed this issue and, in addition to the steps outlined above, has also noted the inherent difficulties that arise from scant local library resources. Virtually all upper level history papers are heavily reliant on IDS and/or research at other regional libraries (the University of Rochester especially). Moreover, increasing demands on Milne instructional space presents challenges for faculty who want to conduct research workshops in the library classrooms. Although the department has taken steps to mitigate the effects of this situation – for example, by encouraging students to get started on projects earlier and by providing small grants for research travel and photocopying (funded by alumni donors) – the department notes that this is a structural problem that merits additional institutional attention.
As part of program review activities, in the fall of 2010 the faculty reviewed recent assessment results and APAC notes on history assessment. Based on this review, the department approved a number of significant changes to program learning outcomes and the assessment model. The changes to the learning outcomes address APAC concerns about overlap and imprecision in the program learning outcomes and APAC suggestions about content assessment. In light of recommendations made within department assessment reports, the department also approved changes to the way in which assessment is conducted. Rather than assessing only the capstone projects, the department will implement a four-year assessment cycle that will assess student mastery of specific skills-based learning outcomes in the HIST 220 and 221 seminars, will assess student ability to synthesize these skills in the capstone projects, and will assess student mastery of content in the 300-level electives. The department is in agreement that this plan represents an important next step as we think holistically about the history program and the role of various courses within the major. The department also is in agreement that this plan more equitably distributes the assessment workload, expands assessment to a wider and more representative body of student work, and incorporates more faculty participation at every step of the process.
Finally, the department is engaging with assessment results as we begin to plan for the possible switch to a 4/4 courseload. The department conceives that one possible benefit of the courseload revision is the opportunity to expand research opportunities in all classes, particularly by encouraging faculty to use increased contact time to focus on research projects and integrate other kinds of high impact educational opportunities (as outlined in the Bringing Theory to Practice task force report) into the major. This change would serve to reinforce the work that we have already been doing to enhance student research.
Based upon department discussions connected to program review in the 2010-11 AY, the department revised the program learning outcomes and assessment cycle. These changes and a discussion of the reasoning behind them appear in the attachment.
assessment plan with justifications.doc
How History Has Closed the Loop
2016-7 Academic Year
Submitted by Joe Cope, 31 January 2017
History reviewed five years of assessment data in conjunction with the department’s spring 2016 program review. As discussed in previous years’ assessment reports, the department has been generally satisfied with students’ mastery of program learning outcomes. In the course of program review discussions, two major “closing the loop” issues emerged.
First, there was general agreement that the department’s moves over the past three years to define a curriculum map and more clearly articulate learning outcomes and workload expectations for all classes have been beneficial. We now have common core learning outcomes for 200-level electives, 400-level electives, the HIST 301 and 302 seminars, and the HIST 491/493/496 capstones. In writing these outcomes, we also were careful to map them on to the department’s curriculum map, thus underscoring the coherence of the program curriculum. This process has ensured that all instructors foreground discipline specific skills in course development and had helped significantly in keeping the department’s curriculum grounded in clearly defined skills.
Second, both the faculty and external reviewers agreed that as next step, the department should begin to gather longitudinal data on students’ attainment of skills as they move through the major. This would be a multi-year process, beginning with a assessment of baseline skills in the students’ first year experiences in lower level electives, higher level research and historiography skills in 301 and 302, application of these skills in upper level electives, and mastery in the capstones. This approach would give the department detailed data on individual students’ progress through the major and help identify points where additional discussion of curriculum and/or student support may be needed. There was also general consensus that this approach would allow the department to gather data that might be useful in our continued attempts to improve retention of declared majors. In light of this discussion, the Assessment Coordinator has developed a multiyear plan to implement this study, which will be implemented starting in the spring 2017 semester. With this incoming cohort of students, we will thus have a full run of longitudinal data ready for the department’s next scheduled program review in the 2020-21 academic year. While conducting this long term project, the department will also continue to gather assessment on the senior capstones, guaranteeing regular quality checks on students’ mastery of disciplinary skills.