Assessment Policy for the Department of Liberal Studies

Degree programs and learning goals

The department’s two concentrations for the B.A. Humanities degree develop interdisciplinary methods of study in the History of Culture and in the academic study of Religion and Culture. A third program, B.A. Humanities—Elementary Education, provides a shorter version of the history of culture concentration and prepares students to teach humanities subjects in primary schools.

In the department’s degree programs and upper division courses for majors and minors, we have identified the following kinds of desired learning goals: advanced content mastery, ability to identify problems for research, ability to understand and use abstract concepts, ability to evaluate and analyze primary sources, ability to identify, critically evaluate, and use secondary sources, ability to develop coherent, logical arguments and to support them with appropriate and adequate evidence, and advanced written and oral communication skills.

Direct assessment of learning outcomes in the degree programs

The core requirements for the B.A. Humanities degree are a graded sequence of courses, each one of which builds on content mastery and skills developed in the previous courses. The core begins with LBRL 121, 122, 123, The Western Tradition 1, 2, and 3.

Majors then take their first seminar, LBRL 302, Methods of Interdisciplinary Study. After completing this course they take two required senior seminars from LBRL 417a-e. They complete at least one of these seminars before beginning their senior paper, researched and written under advisement in LBRL 400 and 499.

The senior paper is the most important direct way we assess learning outcomes for majors in the B.A. Humanities program. We append the rubric adopted by the department for grading senior papers.

For minor programs, and for the Humanities—Elementary Education major, which do not require a senior paper, direct assessment may be done through grades in the 417 seminars, all of which satisfy the University’s upper-division writing proficiency course requirement. In LBRL 302 and the LBRL 417 seminars we also assess oral communication skills as part of the overall grade for each student.

Planned addition to direct assessment in the degree programs

The department has introduced exit interviews for graduates, and a small faculty committee will review the interviews and report on them as necessary in department meetings.

Indirect assessment in the degree programs: student advising

Because this is a small department, assessment of learning outcomes in major programs also is done through student advising. Results requiring policy decisions of the department are discussed and acted upon in the department’s meetings. Examples include: making the senior project two quarters long rather than one, reducing the required LBRL 417 senior seminars from three to two, adding LBRL 301, Historical Methods in the Humanities, and adding the Religion and Culture concentration to the B.A. Humanities major.

Desired learning outcomes in GUR courses

The department offers high quality GUR courses for the Humanities and the Class, Gender, and Multicultural Studies (CGM ) requirements. The department’s GUR courses have limited enrollments, provide an opportunity for student discussion, and written exams, and many have writing assignments. The department’s GUR courses provide a liberal arts foundation of knowledge and skills in analysis of texts and works of art, and an integrative knowledge of the history of Western traditions, or an introduction to serious study of one or more ‘non-Western’ cultures. In the department’s GUR courses we have identified the following kinds of learning goals: basic content mastery, problem solving in the analysis of texts and works of art, comparative and critical thinking about cultural patterns and values, and written communication skills.

Indirect assessment of learning outcomes in GUR courses

Because we typically see students in the GUR courses only once, it is much more difficult to assess learning outcomes for such students except through their final grades. The department uses the regular evaluations of tenured and non-tenured faculty to review course syllabuses, assignments, and student evaluations of GUR courses. The department encourages faculty to use departmental evaluation forms which require student comments. Comments and suggestions from other faculty are shared by the chair with the member being reviewed.

Rubric for assessing learning outcomes in senior papers

The following is a statement of standards for assessing desired and measurable learning outcomes in senior papers. Faculty who supervise and grade senior papers have been asked to use these standards and to suggest modifications based on use. Final grades may depend on other factors as well, including overall effort, and these standards are not to be thought equally important to all senior papers.

Aspects to be evaluated

  • Identification of problem and statement of thesis.
  • Quality of conceptual analysis.
  • Evaluation and analysis of primary sources.
  • Identification, evaluation and analysis of secondary sources.
  • Clarity of argument and appropriateness and adequacy of evidence.
  • Clarity of writing.
  • Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and use of correct forms in reference notes and bibliography.

Standards for evaluation

Each aspect to be evaluated should be graded as excellent, good, fair, poor, or N/A (not applicable).

  • ‘Excellent’ should be used to indicate the accomplishment of good to excellent work which has been accomplished on the student’s own initiative.
  • ‘Good’ should be used to indicate the accomplishment of good work with appropriate supervision.
  • ‘Fair’ should be used to indicate the accomplishment of only satisfactory work, regardless of the level of supervision.
  • ‘Poor’ should be used to indicate work that is unsatisfactory.
  • N/A indicates that this item was not relevant to this paper.