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
We have repeated this assessment multiple times, giving us a sense of how our changes to the thesis program and overall teaching have impacted student learning. Annuals 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.
We are conducting occasional surveys to assess whether students are getting the advising needed to be successful in our program. Initial results have been very positive, but we will continue to strive to identify student needs and make improvements in access to mentors and research opportunities.