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2006-2007 Annual Report History Department

Please answer the following questions in the body of an e-mail and return to CC a copy of the report to your department faculty and to your dean.

a. Program Name -   History

b. Report prepared by –   Isabel O’Connor

c. Who is the current assessment contact for your program?  Isabel O’Connor.

d. Should assessment information be sent to anyone else in your department?  No

N.B.:  The data reported below serves as an update of the Third Year Assessment Review report, which the department turned in to the Assessment Committee on April 1, 2007. 

1. What are the program’s educational goals? (Please take goals directly from your program’s assessment plan, and highlight any changes made this year.)

The major goal of our program is to give students seeking degrees in History a broad understanding of the varieties of ways of examining the past.

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

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

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.

Changes:  The History Department did not make any changes to the department’s goals in 2006-2007.  However, following our Third Year Review in early May 2007, we decided that in the Fall 2007, we would follow up on the Assessment Committee’s observation that the fourth goal listed above is very difficult to measure. 

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

The portfolio:  Three history majors who wished to take the pro seminar in the Fall 2007 turned in their portfolios to the department chair in April 2007.  As stated in the Third Year Review document, in January 2007, the department extensively revised the guidelines for the portfolio.  In addition to reducing the number of examinations that students need to include from 6 to 3, we also decided to request that all documentation included in the portfolio should come from history courses. 

We were happy to see that the three students who turned in their portfolios included only history materials.  In the past, students had difficulty fulfilling this request and were forced to include papers from other disciplines.  So, for the past two years, we have been reminding our majors, starting at the first advising appointment, that they should save all their history course materials.  Also, as a department we have discussed the role of undergraduate research in all history courses at several department meetings and especially at our April 2007 departmental teaching retreat.  We believe that it is important that our majors be exposed to research and writing throughout the program. 

The most significant change in the portfolio, however, was regarding the self-analysis essay.  As stated in the Third Year Review, instead of simply asking the students to reflect on their careers in the department, we broke down the instructions into questions covering three broad areas:  What have I learned?, How?, and What are my areas of strength and weakness.  The depth of the three essays that the department members reviewed was of a much higher caliber.  The students provided detailed data concerning their own progress, as well as specific courses and types of assignments that they found helpful as they progressed through the major.

 Exit interviews:  In April 2007, we administered exit interviews for the first time ever to our graduating seniors.  The form, which was attached to our Third Year Review, asked a variety of questions regarding the program.  Two of the three students who completed the interview told us that they were not satisfied with their overall experience with advising in the department.  The two students in question stated that their assigned departmental advisor had changed often due to instructors’ leaves.  Moreover, all three students involved stated that the advising that they had received from their different departmental advisors varied significantly in terms of quality.

3. What has your program done with assessment information this year? (i.e. communicated results to faculty, staff, alumni and students, made changes in the curriculum, made changes in the budget, added new courses. . .)

Teaching retreat:  At the April 2007 retreat, all full-time faculty in residence and one part-time instructor spent half a day discussing the issues that we face in the classroom.  Faculty exchanged syllabi, exams, writing prompts, etc. and offered suggestions on how to help the students in our history courses develop good analytical and critical thinking skills through reading and writing.

Records:  We started making copies of the self-analysis essay in the portfolio, which we now keep in a binder in the history main office.  The data collected in this manner will help us analyze the long-term effects of the portfolio changes that we implemented in January 2007.

Exit interviews:  Every faculty member in the department received a copy of the exit interviews that our three graduating seniors completed in late April 2007.  We also kept copies for the department records and placed them in the department’s main office.  We agreed to dedicate part of a department meeting in the Fall 2007 to analyze the results.

4. After reflecting on assessment activities in your unit, as a result of assessment what are two issues you would like to address?

We are happy to see that our students are engaged in research in many history courses.  However, as a department, we need to continue our discussion about the role of research in history courses, as well as best practices and challenges.  We agreed to revisit the topic at our Spring 2008 teaching retreat. 

The exit interviews completed by our three graduating seniors in May 2007 showed us that our majors thought that we needed improvement in advising.  We will work on developing strategies on how to address their concerns.