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Wiekamp Sculpture

Assessing Student Outcomes 2005-2006

What specific educational goals does your program have for its students?

Students should have the ability to communicate multiple ways of interpreting the past, both in written and verbal form, to others.

Students should have the ability to read and understand primary and secondary sources, including archival documents, journal articles, monographs and textbooks.

Students should have a basic understanding of the workings of historiography.

Students should be able to apply historical reasoning and knowledge of the past to other disciplines.

What assessment techniques did your program use?  (Please take goals directly from your program’s assessment plan, and highlight any changes made this year.)

Papers and examinations in history classes were used to assess students as they progressed through the program. History Majors keep a number of these papers and exams in a portfolio.  A sophomore level course H217, The Nature of History teaches about the discipline and methods of history and assesses students in their ability to research classic and recent works on a historical topic.  Advisors inform students at their first session and at subsequent sessions that they need to begin to organize their portfolios to include six essay examinations, five essays (which may be book reviews, comments on documents, brief narratives, or interpretive essays), two longer papers that include systematic documentation, and a formal job resume.  For the past two years, students have been told to write broader introductions to their portfolios in which students evaluate their entire career as History Majors and not just the contents of the portfolio.  In the upcoming year, the department will work to develop specific instructions to guide the students through the self-analysis narrative.  Once developed, these instructions will be put on the department’s webpage.  The portfolios are reviewed by two history faculty members to determine if the student is ready for the Senior Pro-Seminar in History.  In that Proseminar the student writes a major research paper which is graded by the professor for the Proseminar along with another faculty member who judges whether the paper is written at the C level or above to receive History degree.  In 2005, all Proseminar papers but one passed.  All the portfolios passed. 

What specific educational goals does your program have for its students?

Faculty:  All faculty members graded students and also read portfolios.  Grades for H217 and J495 were recorded.  Portfolios were kept in the History Mail Room unless students requested them.  The department secretary and the student’s faculty advisor kept records of transcripts and the results of the evaluation of portfolios.  

The department sets aside time at departmental meetings to discuss the results of reading portfolios.  A number of changes in the program were discussed at subsequent department meetings.  These changes involve portfolio instruction in H217 and preparation in writing research papers.  The entire department was involved in deciding possible interventions for at-risk students.

Students:  Students kept track of their work and reflected on it through portfolios.  Since 2004, we have changed the nature of the introductory essay to the student portfolio.  As stated above, this year we will develop specific guidelines to assist students in the writing of the self-analysis essay. We will continue to request that students include only history papers and exams if possible.

Curriculum:  Papers and exams in Early Modern European History were lacking in the portfolios which we read. For this reason and because our program requires two upper level classes in European History, we are making a position request for an Early Modern European Historian.  This is based on the difficulty that majors have in obtaining classes in this area given the current specialties of the department.  We have a Medieval and a Modern European historian, but no one in between.  We also need more full-time faculty to advise our growing number of Majors so they can successfully complete the program.

What are two concerns about student learning identified this year?

There are innumerable ways to approach and interpret the study of the past.  One of our chief goals is to expose students to different pedagogical methods and writing assignments to reflect that diversity.  The portfolios, our main assessment tool, show that students are performing different types of writing assignments in history courses.  However, after examining the data collected through the portfolios, the department found that while most students are doing historical writing at the expected level, some are writing descriptive papers.  In the upcoming year, we will continue to stress critical thinking skills in history courses.  Moreover, this year the department began to discuss the possible implementation of pre-requisites for the upper-division courses to address this problem.