Political Science Assessment

Assessment of Student Learning: Summary of Activities and Progress in the Political Science Department

Although objective standards are hard to establish in a mostly qualitative field such as ours, the political science department has made gains in assessing academic progress among our students. Our most recent official listing of departmental learning outcomes derives from our 2005 academic program review report. During our 2009 annual departmental retreat, and in anticipation of our AY09 academic program review, we began a reevaluation of our departmental learning outcomes. We have subsequently conducted a preliminary analysis of our course syllabi to determine whether our course goals match our departmental learning outcomes. We had planned on utilizing this syllabi analysis process to update as necessary our departmental learning goals which appear in our 2005 academic program review report.

As part of our general assessment strategy, we have begun to employ four tools to determine whether our graduates have achieved the stated outcomes for their academic program. First, we have created a rubric to evaluate the term papers from our capstone seminar to determine whether our students have mastered the content as well as the skills required by our discipline. Second, we have begun to conduct pre and post tests so that we can measure the extent of knowledge and skills acquisition among students within selected courses. Third, we have proposed that faculty members write brief qualitative self-assessments of each of their courses every semester to determine whether students achieved the course’s stated goals and objectives. Fourth, we have developed an instrument to survey majors who have graduated about their current occupation and community service involvement, the extent to which our programs and curriculum prepared them for their career, and their general satisfaction with our course offerings, skills development, advising, experiential learning, and extracurricular opportunities. A parallel instrument to gauge the views of our current majors also has been designed.

The political science department continues to develop its formal learning outcomes assessment. Our annual departmental retreats over the past three years were almost entirely devoted to discussion on defining the department’s learning outcomes and determining how we may effectively assess them. Since AY08, we have begun to collect faculty members’ qualitative self-assessments about how their courses met their course objectives. Over the summer of 2009 we began to evaluate our students’ capstone seminar papers as part of our AY09 academic program review, but this undertaking was put on hold when the program review was suspended. In AY09 we also began to give students pre and post tests in select courses in order to measure the development of their learning in those courses. In AY10 we will send out to our alumni and current students the surveys we have developed to assess their views of our department’s programs.