Learning Outcomes Essay

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The English Department uses the following assessment strategies for measuring student learning outcomes, in three phases. Formative Assessments are based on student performances after majors have completed the genre courses ENG 2010 and ENG 2020 and the research and writing course ENG 3070J; summative Assessments are based on student accomplishments to be reflected in a capstone project completed in the senior seminar, qualitative exit interviews, and via a review of student work delivered in E-Portfolios.

FORMATIVE ASSESSMENTS

These are course-level assessments to gauge effectiveness of two required courses early in the English major and then at the junior level. ENG 2010, ENG 2020, and ENG 3070J are used for this phase of the assessment. The 2000-level courses provide an essential framework of knowledge and skill for students to progress effectively through the major, while ENG 3070J establishes student readiness for work in the capstone senior seminar (ENG 4600/4640/4650/4660).

ENG 2010

Learning Objectives

  • Students will develop their appreciation for the purposes and pleasures of prose fiction and nonfiction.
  • Students will articulate ways that literary works construct values and ethical meanings.
  • Students will practice analytical reading on multiple examples of each genre chosen to illuminate different literary choices and conventions, including texts that are culturally and historically diverse.
  • Students will identify major features of literary form and construct arguments about the relationship between form and the work’s meaning.

Assessment Tools

  • Knowledge of standard literary terminology evaluated by exam
  • Essay(s) or exercise(s) evaluated by rubric

ENG 2020

Learning Objectives

  • Students will develop their appreciation for the purposes and pleasures of poetry and drama.
  • Students will articulate ways that literary works construct values and ethical meanings.
  • Students will practice analytical reading on multiple examples of each genre chosen to illuminate different literary choices and conventions, including texts that are culturally and historically diverse.
  • Students will identify major features of literary form and construct arguments about the relationship between form and the work’s meaning.

Assessment Tools

  • Knowledge of standard literary terminology evaluated by exam
  • Essay(s) or exercise(s) evaluated by rubric

ENG 3070J

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Compose an effective research essay that integrates use of primary and secondary sources
  • Construct viable research questions in English studies
  • Evaluate research sources in English studies
  • Revise a research essay
  • Use academic databases in English studies
  • Understand how genres shape reading and writing
  • Use writing and reading for inquiry, learning, thinking, and communicating
  • Integrate their own ideas with those of others
  • Understand writing as a series of tasks, including finding, evaluating, analyzing, and synthesizing primary and secondary sources
  • Be aware that it takes multiple drafts to create and complete a successful text
  • Develop flexible strategies for generating, revising, editing, and proof-reading
  • Learn to critique their own and others’ works
  • Develop knowledge of genre conventions ranging from structure and paragraphing to tone and mechanics
  • Practice appropriate means of documenting their work

Assessment Tools

  • Student portfolio evaluated by simple evident/not evident rubric

Steps for Implementation

For ENG 2010 and 2020, a set of uniform multiple choice questions are used to evaluate student understanding of technical literary terminology necessary for describing formal aspects of literary works. Two rubrics are used to evaluate student work: 1) basic genre analysis skills (these rubrics are different for the two classes); and 2) a rubric evaluating the student’s ability to relate literary form to meaning.

Faculty who teach ENG 2010 and ENG 2020 administer the multiple choice evaluation when appropriate within their course and evaluate one or more writing coursework based on the rubrics evaluating formal knowledge and analysis.

For ENG 3070J, a portfolio of all student work from the semester will be evaluated to determine whether the learning outcomes are evident or not evident.

Faculty who teach ENG 3070J will require students to compile portfolios and review them to determine whether each learning outcome is evident in the coursework completed.

Feedback from student performance is used to guide the program in the continuous improvement cycle of student performance, curriculum, and teaching.

SUMMATIVE ASSESSMENTS

ENG 4600/4640/4650/4660 (senior seminar)

Learning Objectives

4600

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate complex understanding of the course’s topic
  • Critically engage with scholarship on the topic
    • Complete a substantial research-based project that includes sustained scholarly writing
  • Synthesize viewpoints from a variety of scholars and multiple texts in a final project
    • Effectively present information orally through class discussion and/or class presentation.
  • Compose increasingly complex analytical projects over the course of the semester.

4640/4650/4660

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to expertly navigate research sources, both printed and electronic
  • Critically engage with scholarship on works by the author(s) studied
  • Demonstrate complex understanding of the works of the author(s) studied
  • Complete a substantial research-based project that includes sustained scholarly writing
  • Integrate multiple scholarly sources on the author[s] studies in a final project.
  • Effectively present information orally through class discussion and/or class presentation.
  • Compose increasingly sophisticated analytical projects over the course of the semester.

Assessment Tools

  • Oral communication skills and increasingly sophisticated projects evaluated as evident/not evident
  • Research project evaluated by rubric

Steps for Implementation

Faculty teaching the senior seminar will assess student oral communication and increasing sophistication of work over the term as evident/not evident. They will evaluate the final research project by rubric.

Student E-portfolios

Materials are uploaded to the e-portfolios continuously during the student’s major progress. under the oversight of the departmental academic advisor. In the senior year, concurrent with the senior seminar, students will finalize their portfolios for assessment. Portfolios may include some combination of student essays, personal narratives, journals, creative and critical work of students, coursework assignments, and study abroad reports.

Assessment Tool

  • Evaluated by e-portfolios

Steps for Implementation

The departmental academic advisor will use normal advising sessions assure that students are regularly uploading appropriate coursework and/or personal projects to their e-portfolios. In the senior year, concurrent with the senior seminar, an assigned faculty member taken from a small pool of trained portfolio advisors will assist graduating students in selecting material to include in the final portfolio that will most effectively demonstrate major learning outcomes

The department Assessment Committee will assess at least 15% of student e-portfolios to see that student writings actually reflect solid knowledge of the discipline and that students can analyze and write effectively about diverse topics in an effective and organized manner. 

Exit Interviews

Objectives

The English Department will supplement faculty review of student learning with qualitative data of student’s perception of their own learning and departmental experience.

Assessment tool

  • Structured in-person interview

Steps for Implementation

In the spring, members of the Department Assessment Committee will conduct interviews with students who are currently enrolled in or who in the fall completed their senior seminar. The Committee will prepare a written summary of interview results designed to assist the English Department with evaluating its curriculum, advising processes, other departmental student activities, and the major outcomes themselves for continuous improvement in improving learning and meeting student needs.

Assessment Strategies

The outcomes for the major are synthetic and designed to be reached through any of a very large variety of possible course combinations. In addition, the capstone project in the senior seminar is the culmination of a semester-long course, but not a semester-long project, and may take a variety of forms. The English Department has thus opted for a multi-pronged approach.

At the center of this approach is the portfolio-based assessment. Each objective has a detailed rubric for scoring the portfolio as a whole from 1 (does not meet objective) to 4 (exceeds objective), with subsections for objectives 4 and 5.

Exit interviews are meant to gauge how students’ understand their own learning as English majors and to help the Department respond to their own perceptions of their needs.

Evidence of Student Learning

Use of Student Learning Evidence

Writing and Assessing Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of a program of study, what do you want students to be able to do? How can your students demonstrate the knowledge the program intended them to learn? Student learning outcomes are statements developed by faculty that answer these questions. Typically, Student learning outcomes (SLOs) describe the knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors or values students should be able to demonstrate at the end of a program of study. A combination of methods may be used to assess student attainment of learning outcomes.

Characteristics of Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

  • Describe what students should be able to demonstrate, represent or produce upon completion of a program of study (Maki, 2010)
  • Rely on active verbs that identify what students should be able to demonstrate, represent, or produce (Maki, 2010)


Student learning outcomes also:

  • Should align with the institution’s curriculum and co-curriculum outcomes (Maki, 2010)
  • Should be collaboratively authored and collectively accepted (Maki, 2010)
  • Should incorporate or adapt professional organizations outcome statements when they exist (Maki, 2010)
  • Can be quantitatively and/or qualitatively assessed during a student’s studies (Maki, 2010)

Examples of Student Learning Outcomes

The following examples of student learning outcomes are too general and would be very hard to measure : (T. Banta personal communication, October 20, 2010)

  • will appreciate the benefits of exercise science.
  • will understand the scientific method.
  • will become familiar with correct grammar and literary devices.
  • will develop problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.

The following examples, while better are still general and again would be hard to measure. (T. Banta personal communication, October 20, 2010)

  • will appreciate exercise as a stress reduction tool.
  • will apply the scientific method in problem solving.
  • will demonstrate the use of correct grammar and various literary devices.
  • will demonstrate critical thinking skills, such as problem solving as it relates to social issues.

The following examples are specific examples and would be fairly easy to measure when using the correct assessment measure: (T. Banta personal communication, October 20, 2010)

  • will explain how the science of exercise affects stress.
  • will design a grounded research study using the scientific method.
  • will demonstrate the use of correct grammar and various literary devices in creating an essay.
  • will analyze and respond to arguments about racial discrimination.

Importance of Action Verbs and Examples from Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • Action verbs result in overt behavior that can be observed and measured (see list below).
  • Verbs that are unclear, and verbs that relate to unobservable or unmeasurable behaviors, should be avoided (e.g., appreciate, understand, know, learn, become aware of, become familiar with).


Assessing SLOs

Instructors may measure student learning outcomes directly, assessing student-produced artifacts and performances; instructors may also measure student learning indirectly, relying on students own perceptions of learning.

Direct Measures of Assessment

Direct measures of student learning require students to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. They provide tangible, visible and self-explanatory evidence of what students have and have not learned as a result of a course, program, or activity (Suskie, 2004; Palomba & Banta, 1999). Examples of direct measures include:

  • Objective tests
  • Essays
  • Presentations
  • Classroom assignments
  • Portfolios

This example of a Student Learning Outcome (SLO) from psychology could be assessed by an essay, case study, or presentation: Students will analyze current research findings in the areas of physiological psychology, perception, learning, abnormal and social psychology.

Indirect Measures of Assessment

Indirect measures of student learning capture students’ perceptions of their knowledge and skills; they supplement direct measures of learning by providing information about how and why learning is occurring. Examples of indirect measures include:

  • Self assessment
  • Peer feedback
  • End of course evaluations
  • Questionnaires
  • Focus groups
  • Exit interviews

Using the SLO example from above, an instructor could add questions to an end-of-course evaluation asking students to self-assess their ability to analyze current research findings in the areas of physiological psychology, perception, learning, abnormal and social psychology. Doing so would provide an indirect measure of the same SLO.

Advantages of Using Multiple Methods
  • Balances the limitations inherent when using only one method (Maki, 2004).
  • Provides students the opportunity to demonstrate learning in an alternative way (Maki, 2004).
  • Contributes to an overall interpretation of student learning at both institutional and programmatic levels.
  • Values the many ways student learn (Maki, 2004).

References

Bloom, B. (1956) A taxonomy of educational objectives, The classification of educational goals-handbook I: Cognitive domain . New York: McKay .

Maki, P.L. (2004). Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution . Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Maki, P.L. (2010 ). Assessing for learning: Building a sustainable commitment across the institution (2nd ed.) . Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Palomba, C.A., & Banta, T.W. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Suskie, L. (2004). Assessing student learning: A common sense guide. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing.

Authored by Mona Kheiry (March, 2011)

Revised by Terri Tarr (February, 2014)

Revised by Doug Jerolimov (April, 2016)

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