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Date Submitted: September 17, 2008

Steve Derné, Professor of Sociology; and Lisa Meyer, Associate Professor of Sociology, Departmental Assessment Co-Coordinators.

Intended Learning Outcome:

"Students will demonstrate understanding of one or more contemporary debates in sociological theory."
Means of assessment

To graduate, majors must complete two required theory courses, one of which is Socl 365, contemporary theory.  In Fall 2007, the instructor in Socl 365 evaluated  in-class short-answer final examinations to identify whether students showed an understanding of one or more contemporary debates in sociological theory.

The final examination consisted of students choosing 15 of 20 short answer questions.  Students who averaged 9 out of 10 in answering the two questions about functionalism (one question asking students to illustrate it, one asking students to critique it) were judged to understand a contemporary debate in sociological theory. Students who averaged 9 out of ten in answering one question about exchange theory that illustrated it and at least one of the two questions that critiqued it were judged to understand a contemporary debate in sociological theory.   Students who averaged 9 out of 10 in answering the two questions about symbolic interactionism (one asking students to illustrate it, one asking students to critique it) were judged to understand a contemporary debate in sociological theory. Students who got above a 9 on one of the two questions addressing McKinnon's feminist theory were judged to understand a contemporary debate in sociological theory.

Twenty-nine student efforts were evaluated. 31 students were enrolled in the class. One student who was failing did not complete the final. One student was an anthropology major who was taking the class as an elective; this student was not evaluated.

Criteria for success for this outcome

We hoped that the great majority of students would understand at least one contemporary debate in sociological theory quite well.

Assessment Results

All 29 students at least met the criteria of understanding one debate in contemporary sociological theory.  28 of the 29 students exceeded the criteria by understanding more than one contemporary theoretical debate

Discussion

It is notable that even students who did rather poorly on the examination succeeded in understanding more than one debate in contemporary theory well.  This shows that our program is effective in insuring that students understand some important debates well, even if the breadth of their understanding is poor.  Thus, one student who received a 65 on the exam, averaged a 90 on his or her understanding of functionalism exchange theory, and MacKinnon's theory (while averaging a 65 in his or her understanding of symbolic interactionism." One student who received a 47 because he or she answered only 11 of the required 15 questions, averaged a 90 on his or her understanding of functionalism and a 100 in his or her understanding of symbolic interactionism.  The student failed to demonstrate any understanding of exchange theory and chose not to answer the questions about MacKinnon.

(It's worth noting of course, that we could not assess how well each student understood each of the four debates selected as not all students selected each of the questions required to evaluate each debate because the test included some choice.)

This shows that the program successfully meets the outcome of insuring that students will understand at least one contemporary debate in sociological theory.

We assessed some fundamental debates that we hoped all students would understand well, choosing not to assess how well students understood some of the more complex recent debates.

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