U.S. Histories Core Assessment Report (2020-21)
(1a) Knowledge of a Basic Narrative of American History that includes political, economic, social and cultural components.
(1b) Knowledge of Unity and Diversity in American society
(2) Knowledge of the History and Development of Common American Institutions, social structures, and cultural forms, and how they have related to different groups.
(3) Knowledge of the History and Development of America’s Evolving Relationship with the Rest of the world
* In Standard #3, one instructor entered all zeros, indicating that it was “mostly not applicable” to the assignment.
What were the major findings of this assessment?
Nine courses were assessed, with a total of 328 students (one faculty member failed to follow the instructions and used the wrong categories, so the results for that course are not included). As in past assessment years, the majority of Geneseo students are either exceeding or meeting almost all of the stated learning outcomes. In three of the four categories, more than 80 percent of the students either exceeded or met the stated learning outcomes. The only category with a slightly lower total (76%) was Standard #3 (“Knowledge of the History and Development of America’s Evolving Relationship with the Rest of the World”). Overall, however, the current results are relatively on par with previous assessments, despite the substantial disruptions caused by the pandemic. The lower number for Standard #3 may be attributable to one instructor assessing an assignment in which that standard was “mostly not applicable,” and another instructor (who submitted results for three course sections) who chose an assignment in which that standard was only partially applicable, depending on which reading the students chose to write on.
In light of these findings, what actions might be taken to improve teaching and learning?
Although the exceeding/meeting numbers for all categories remain impressive, some discussion of the weakness in Standard #3 is perhaps warranted. While the previous assessment also noted some relative weakness in the third category and determined that this “demonstrates that not all faculty are actually addressing all of the stated learning outcomes,” it is unclear whether that relative weakness is merely an artifact of assessment assignment choices or an indication of a genuine weakness in meeting that standard in the courses as a whole. In one case in the current assessment, in which the instructor picked an assignment that required students to choose from among three different primary sources to write on, it was clearly just an artifact of the particular assignment chosen. It stands to reason that not all assignments necessarily need to address all the assessment standards, as long as those standards are met in the course as a whole. In fact, in the course in question, Standard #3 is met throughout the rest of the course. This points to a basic weakness in the way we assess courses: by focusing assessment on a single assignment, we fail to take into account the other content of the course. This is an issue that could be addressed by the U.S. Histories Core committee, as well as the General Education Committee.