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.

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, majors then have two options.  They may either choose to complete three required 400-level senior seminars, or, alternately, they may choose the thesis option.  In the thesis option, students complete two required 400-level senior seminars and then write a senior thesis, researched and written under individual advisement in the LBRL 498 and 499 series. 

The senior research papers and the senior thesis are the most important direct way we assess learning outcomes for majors in the B.A. Humanities program.  All Liberal Studies courses, and particularly those at the upper-division level, emphasize and assess high level critical reading, analytical writing, and oral communication skills. 

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 thesis sequence two quarters long rather than one.  Creating two options to complete the majors, 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.