We are using a variety of assessment tools to help us assess quantitatively whether learning goals are being met and to provide feedback that will allow us to fine tune our requirements and overall curriculum.
Analysis of Senior Thesis Papers
One of our first goals was to get a baseline assessment of how well student work reflected our learning goals and objectives. One third of our senior undergraduates conduct research projects and write a detailed senior thesis as part of our Graduation with Distinction program. This large sample of senior theses provide an excellent resource to test if the above goals are being met by our graduating seniors. Each thesis is read by a faculty member who was not directly involved in the research project. Faculty will an assessment rubric and score the thesis on a scale of 1 to 3: (1) unsuccessful; (2) acceptable; (3) successful/excellent.
The rubric will be based on the following goals:
- Mastery of topic (paleontology, morphology, primate behavior/ecology, etc.)
- Appropriate use of scientific method (hypotheses, predictions, appropriate methods for projects, etc.)
- Mastery of evolutionary theory and processes associated with evolution; appropriate connections made between evolutionary theory and thesis project
- Critical thinking
- Application of knowledge base (literature review, review of basic concepts relevant to the project)
- Effective communication
The results of this initial assessment will help us refine the assessment rubric as necessary and look for strengths and weaknesses in the program. An annual report based on our findings will be presented at a full faculty meeting. This information will be used by the DUS and EVANTH Curriculum Committees to refine the curriculum as necessary (e.g., inclusion of more writing elements in key courses). The assessment of student thesis papers will be repeated every 3-4 years.
Student Work at Intermediate Level Courses
We use a similar rubric to assess course work that reflects students in their second or third year of study. Working initially with two representative courses in the discipline, EVANTH 220 Human Evolution and EVANTH 221S The Ape-Human Transition, we collected samples of coursework (student names are removed) and use the same rubric above to see if departmental goals are being addressed and if students are meeting those goals.
This information is then presented to the EVANTH faculty and used to refine the curriculum as necessary, adding core courses if deemed necessary and adding elements to courses if certain goals are not being addressed directly. This assessment will then be repeated every three to four years
We have deliberately designed a program where students have options by which they can complete the major. To assess whether students were delaying needed co-requisites or consistently choosing a particular sub-set of courses, we asked the Office of Assessment to summarize the specific courses taken by our majors and when the students took these courses (sophomore, junior or senior year). We used this information to assess if students needed more guidance in terms of ordering classes or whether more stringent requirements were needed to cover a reasonably diverse set of subdisciplines within Evolutionary Anthropology. We plan to repeat this process periodically.