Reflection provided by Beverly Evans, Western Humanities chair
Outcomes 1, 2 and 3
Assessment results have improved since 2003-2004, for at least three reasons: 1) faculty have focused on what the intended learning outcomes imply and have sought, as time and resources have permitted, to ensure that instruction would become more and more effective; 2) faculty have become more familiar with assessment rubrics and with assessment in general; 3) the college has become more and more selective, which has resulted in a somewhat stronger academic profile for each entering class.
Outcome 4: "consider moral, social, and political issues from an interdisciplinary perspective."
In response to stated 2006-2007 goals for improvement, faculty have been encouraged, specifically, during end-of-semester meetings, to develop assignments that “required students to demonstrate interdisciplinary thinking.” In fact, since the program's inception, new faculty members have been required to team-teach, and be mentored by, an instructor from a discipline other than their own the first time they teach each course. We recently reinstituted the practice of holding faculty forums that focus on particular authors, works, or intellectual movements. During these gatherings, colleagues can formally share insights from their own disciplinary specializations, which should, at least theoretically, enable instructors from other disciplines to expand the interdisciplinary scope of their classes. As noted in the 2008-2009 report, the assessment results for Outcome 4 were still disappointing. Therefore, it is to be hoped that, as more faculty attend more of these forums, the interdisciplinary nature of classes will be enhanced, thus improving future outcome results.
In both 2003-2004 and 2006-2007, it was suggested that assignment sharing by faculty might be a useful practice to help all instructors improve upon results for Outcome 4. When this has been discussed at faculty meetings, the issue of intellectual property rights has been cited as a reason that instructors should not be expected (let alone required) to participate. In fact, there has even been opposition to posting syllabi in a password-protected location. No solution has been found to satisfy those who resist the formal sharing of such information. Of course, nothing prevents individual faculty members from informally sharing ideas for assignments and examinations with their colleagues. Many people have always done that, at least occasionally.
Rate of submission of assessment results
We continue to have many instructors who simply do not submit assessment results. This problem has been discussed on numerous occasions, both during the end-of-semester meetings of all Western Humanities faculty and at Western Humanities Committee meetings. In 2008-2009, this was the case for 50% of FT faculty. It has been observed that PT employees, who make up a quarter of Humn 220 and 221 instructors, “almost never respond.” It is understandable that few PT faculty provide assessment results, given the extremely low salary for teaching these very demanding courses. However, FT faculty need to be enjoined (one hesitates to say “required”) to participate more actively in the assessment process. It remains to be seen how continual urging might produce a higher response rate. Everyone carries a heavy teaching, advisement, and committee load, and faculty also find themselves having to take on more and more tasks with every passing year, for a variety of reasons. It is hard to say what kind of incentive might generate a greater response.
The Big Picture
As the College may be making a shift from offering primarily 3-credit courses to offering mostly 4-credit courses, many program-related matters remain somewhat on hold until a decision is announced. The Western Humanities faculty has discussed on many occasions possible new directions for the courses, as well as what those new directions might imply, in intellectual terms, and necessitate, in practical terms. It seems likely that some of the new directions the course might take could improve student performance with respect to interdisciplinary thinking. This would probably also be the case as concerns the other three intended learning outcomes. Once an institutional determination about the above-mentioned possible transition has been reached, Western Humanities faculty will be able to move forward more decisively to continue closing the loop.