Student Achievement Assessment Committee
This has been a transitional year for the History Department in many respects, assessment included. I became Chair in July, 2005, and the Undergraduate and Graduate (Profs. Danziger and Buffington, respectively) advisors left their posts after the end of the fall semester. Prof. Andy Schocket, the new Undergraduate Advisor, and Prof. Walter Grunden, the new Graduate advisor, assumed their duties in the spring, and began a review of assessment practices in the Department. This transition in departmental leadership has caused some unavoidable delays in assessment activities and analysis, but I am pleased to report that we have made a solid beginning and will continue our progress in the coming academic year. Detailed reports on the Undergraduate and Graduate programs follow.
During the 2005-2006 academic year, the department continued its implementation of the curriculum review process proposed in the 2003-2004 Program Review Self Study. Faculty members continued the use of new student evaluation forms, the syllabus checksheet and learning objectives, new guidelines for HIST 480, and the discussion-based HIST 205 courses. In response to the department’s assessment of last year’s HIST 480 outcomes, the undergraduate advisor consulted with this year’s HIST 480 instructors and continued the assessment of HIST 480. In addition, the department enacted new, more specific learning outcomes for 100- and 200-level courses. In 2006-2007, the undergraduate curriculum committee will address disparities in instruction among 480 sections, begin implementation of rigorous assessment of 100- and 200-level courses, and continue curriculum revision through revising content-related learning outcomes in HIST 152 and HIST 152 and general learning outcomes for 300-level courses.
Syllabus Template, and Learning Objectives
The Department has encountered continued difficulty ensuring that faculty incorporate the 100-, 200-level learning outcomes and checksheet into courses and syllabi. Despite distribution of these guidelines each semester and admonishments from the chair, the percentage of syllabi incorporating the outcomes and checksheet has continued at unacceptable levels.
In addition to this lack of compliance, the review of syllabi also revealed that while the great majority of 100- and 200-level sections cover the material as indicated in the course catalog, several courses did not cover all the material, while at least one other course involved material not included in the course catalogue.
Accordingly, the undergraduate advisor is proposing to the chair that, in consonance with the adoption in spring 2006 of new departmental merit policies, faculty members be considered in their annual merit review as meeting or exceeding departmental objectives in teaching only upon submission of syllabi that incorporate the departmental learning outcomes and checksheet and that meet the catalog course description. The chair will consider this proposal or other actions as appropriate to ensure that all faculty members comply with these requirements, especially given that they have been voted on and approved by the department.
Given the variation in syllabi, it is also highly probable that student learning outcomes vary widely across sections; however, the department currently has no mechanism to assess student learning outcomes in 100- and 200-level courses. Therefore, in 2006-2007 the undergraduate curriculum committee will take steps to assess student learning outcomes across sections in all 100- and 200-level courses. The committee will generate an assessment tool to be piloted no later than spring, 2007 with the intent of implementing it across all sections beginning in fall, 2007. The undergraduate advisor will continue to collect data in the coming year to assess this or other initiatives in this direction.
Guidelines and Learning Outcomes for History 480
In 2003-2004, the department passed guidelines reflecting learning outcomes for the purpose of evaluating final papers in HIST 480, the departmental capstone course, after discovering that the expectations of faculty members teaching this course varied widely. These guidelines were implemented in 2004-2005; at the end of that year, great variance was again discovered among the instructors in terms of the degree to which student papers met the departmental guidelines. Accordingly, in 2005-2006, as per recommendations of the 2004-2005 assessment report, all instructors were given the guidelines in electronic and in paper form and reminded of the importance of these guidelines by the undergraduate advisor and the chair. However, these actions seem to have little effect, as indicated by the below data gathered of a representative sampling of 480 final papers across several sections.
The conclusion to be drawn from this data, given its similarity to last year’s data, remains that the marked discrepancies between instructors in student achievement (as represented by these papers) indicates that many of the problems uncovered by assessment may lie less in departmental curriculum than in variations in instruction and instructors’ expectations.
The department regards these wide variations in the results of the capstone course to be a very serious matter. Accordingly, given that previous measures to ensure a consistent experience, the undergraduate curriculum committee will be coordinating both a short-term solution to the problem that can be implemented no later than spring semester, 2007 and what we hope to be a long-term solution that will developed in 2006-2007, piloted in 2007-2008, and fully implemented in 2008-2009. The short-term solution will be to generate sample activities designed to foster the skills necessary to complete the 480 paper according to departmental guidelines that will be distributed to 480 instructors; to have a meeting with the chair, undergraduate advisor, and the 480 instructors for the upcoming semester, emphasizing the importance of the guidelines; and to have instructors fill out and submit to the undergraduate curriculum committee a checksheet for each completed paper at the end of the semester, indicating the extent to which each student’s paper fulfilled the guidelines and the student’s grade for the paper. In doing so, we hope that instructors better make the connection between the guidelines and the evaluation of student work. The long-term goal will be generate standard assignments and evaluation instruments to be used across all 480 sections, indicating specifically what tasks students shall complete, when they shall complete them, the assignment requirements, and modes of evaluation; in addition, we will continue to have instructors fill out the evaluation checksheets so that we may assess student learning outcomes on a continuing basis. By doing so, we hope in the long run to have more a more rigorous and more uniform capstone course experience.
Comprehensive Review of the Curriculum
Beginning in Fall 2004, the department initiated its curriculum review of 100-level courses by creating teaching groups made up of instructors of HIST 151, 152, and 180. As noted in last year’s assessment, these groups produced little and suggested no changes. In order to achieve better results in reviewing HIST 205 and 206 and to consider all the 100- and 200-level courses, this year a subcommittee of the undergraduate curriculum met numerous times to generate new, more specific discipline-related learning outcomes for all 100- and 200-level courses as well as content guidelines for HIST 205 and 206. These were then circulated for comment and revision to various instructors of 100- and 200-level courses, then the full undergraduate curriculum committee, then to the executive committee, and eventually full department. In May, 2006 the new outcomes were approved by the entire department, incorporating them into the department guidelines (Attachment 1). Because the department has an incoming faculty member whose expertise is in world history and whose position was created in part to help the department better conceive the world history sequence, the undergraduate curriculum committee decided to defer further consideration of specific 151 and 152 guidelines until her arrival in fall 2006; the undergraduate curriculum committee made a similar decision in terms of revising HIST 180, given the arrival of a faculty member who will be teaching that course as of fall 2006. Also in 2006-2007, in accordance with the 2003-2004 Program Review Self Study, the undergraduate curriculum committee will be revising the general learning outcomes for 300-level courses.
Mentored Discussion-Based Courses
In fall 2004, the department revived the experimental, discussion-based courses taught by mentored, first time graduate teachers, initiated in 2000-2001 by Rachel Buff and Rob Buffington in connection with a Success-Challenge grant; the program was adopted as a permanent part of the curriculum in spring, 2005. In 2005-2006, three doctoral students who were teaching independently for the first time participated in the program, teaching HIST 205 in the spring semester under the mentorship of Ed Danziger. These sections of approximately 35 students each focused on skills and themes and used discussion as the primary mode of instruction. The teaching group met four times during the fall semester and weekly during the semester to plan classes and share ideas. Faculty members evaluated the instructors’ teaching twice over the semester. At the end of the semester, Danziger submitted a report to the department that included evaluations of the students’ teaching and of the process. While evaluations of the teaching fellows noted areas for considerable improvement – as should be expected, given the instructors’ inexperience – they all also noted the strength of the instructors’ preparation, which can be largely attributed to the mentoring program; Danziger, too, noted that the instructors “had much less anxiety about the start of spring classes and were far better prepared generally” because of the meetings before the semester, and that the weekly meetings “helped to make the semester go more smoothly.” One of the instructors, Matt Bloom, concurred, noting “guidance and feedback from the mentoring professor put me at ease in teaching and helped me to focus on developing and implementing my course.” He also observed that, given two of the instructors were preparing for their doctoral comprehensive exams at the same time as they were teaching, one the one hand “teaching a course while preparing for exams helps doctoral students to fit themes and ideas together coherently,” but on the other hand, “the stress of exams and teaching a course independently for the first time may be too much for some doctoral students.” That two students were taking the exams and teaching for the first time was part coincidence and partly a result of the structure of the graduate curriculum; the undergraduate advisor and the graduate coordinator will consider this issue as the program continues.
The Graduate Committee worked to insure that graduate seminars would employ the same syllabus template and learning outcomes. It continued ongoing appraisal activities, and undertook new initiatives based on evaluation of student data and interviews. The previous Graduate Advisor began a review of the curriculum, and Prof. Walter Grunden, the present Advisor, continued this process. In the coming year, the Graduate Committee will work toward making graduate syllabi and learning outcomes more uniform, continue to reevaluate the curriculum, particularly the MA program, and institute a formal progress review for second year doctoral students.
Syllabus Template and Learning Outcomes
As with the undergraduate History program, the Department has also encountered difficulty in ensuring that faculty incorporate explicitly stated universal learning outcomes into graduate level courses and syllabi. An examination of syllabi for graduate level courses on file in the Department reveals that only two faculty members consistently include a separate rubric titled “Learning Outcomes” or sections that clearly state “Instructor Responsibilities” and “Student Responsibilities” on their syllabi. Others generally incorporate similar wording into sections titled “Course Objectives”, “Assignments”, or “Rationale”. In all cases, expectations for students’ responsibilities and distribution of grades (percentages per assignment) are clearly stated.
At the graduate level, faculty have been encouraged to adopt the following as additional indicators or guides to learning outcomes:
Graduate Level Learning Outcomes:
- Demonstrate a broad understanding of historical methods and genres
- Demonstrate the ability to conduct original research in primary sources, synthesize information from a variety of sources, develop and support a thesis, and add to historical knowledge
- Demonstrate the ability and motivation to participate in professional activities in the history field
- Demonstrate the ability to participate successfully on the professional/academic job market
- Complete their degree in a timely manner (i.e. within normative time.
In the coming year (2006-2007) the Graduate Committee will resume discussion of graduate level learning outcomes and the incorporation of more explicit statement of these in faculty syllabi.
Assessment format varies according to degree program/level, as indicated in a Department document adopted in 2004:
For MA students: 1) coursework grading and feedback; 2) faculty and/or student evaluation of performance as a research/teaching assistant; 3) Master’s committee evaluation of the thesis proposal (if Plan A); 4) successful completion of language examination or statistical skills course; and 5) Master’s committee evaluation of the thesis and oral examination (Plan A), or written (2 fields) and oral examinations.
For PhD students: 1) coursework grading and feedback; 2) faculty and/or student evaluation of performance as a teaching assistant or instructor; 3) doctoral committee evaluation of the written (three fields) and oral comprehensive exams; 4) doctoral committee evaluation of the dissertation prospectus with bibliography; and 5) doctoral committee evaluation of the dissertation and oral defense.
With the aid of the Graduate Secretary, the Graduate Advisor reviews periodically student progress, conducts exit interviews of graduating doctoral students, and monitors job and educational placement after graduation. Analysis of this data suggests that the Department is doing a fine job at both the MA and Ph.D. levels. Master’s students use the experience gained in their degree programs to secure employment with industry, government, and the non-profit sector. They have also gone on to prestigious Ph.D. programs at institutions such as Purdue and Ohio State. Doctoral students finish their degrees in a timely fashion, and enjoy an extremely high placement rate in tenure track jobs.
The Graduate Committee reevaluated the MA program, as suggested in our last program review. Based on a review of student records, as well as interviews with students, the Graduate Committee undertook the following initiatives:
- Creation of a Museum Studies certificate program, in conjunction with American Culture Studies. This program, which will function using existing courses and internship opportunities in ACS and History, will meet student demand for public history courses, and increase the employability of MA graduates. The Chair will finalize arrangement for the certificate program with Prof. Don McQuarie, the director of ACS, in the coming academic year.
- Offering graduate courses online. Discussion with MA students and local teachers revealed that many primary and secondary social studies teachers would prefer to get their master’s degree (which is required by the state for ongoing teacher certification) in history rather than education. They are hampered by the inability to attend required seminars, which are sometimes offered during school hours. The Graduate Committee hopes to address this problem by offering graduate courses suitable for an MA program online, either as hybrid or solely web-based classes. During Summer, 2006, the Department offered its first online graduate seminar (History 621, Problems in Early American History). In the coming academic year, the Graduate Committee will explore offering the required MA-level historiography course, History 652, online.
The Graduate Committee also considered ways to improve student achievement and performance in the doctoral program. These included:
- Instituting a formal review of doctoral student progress by the Graduate Committee, during the student’s third semester of course work. The review would include a meeting with the student to discuss performance in courses, progress toward the comprehensive exams, plans for the dissertation, and related issues. This will insure that student progress is monitored, and that doctoral candidates receive adequate and timely feedback on their performance. The Graduate Committee will finalize the implementation of this system during the coming academic year.
- Redesigning History 694, Teaching College History, to better meet the needs of beginning college instructors. Previously a one-credit workshop, the course has been recast as a four-credit seminar, College Pedagogy for History and Related Disciplines. It incorporates professional development activities (e.g., constructing a cv and teaching philosophy) as well as pedagogical training (e.g., writing a syllabus, leading discussions, creating assessment activities). In addition, it employs microteaching to allow students some practical experience in implementing new ideas and skills. This course was taught for the first time during the Spring term, 2006.
Comprehensive Review of the Curriculum
The previous coordinator (Robert Buffington) began an earnest effort to revise the Department’s graduate course offerings. According to a Department document submitted last year, eight new graduate classes—most of them seminars—were added to the catalog and several inactive courses were dropped. Several inconsistencies in the 400/500 level course numbers still remain, however, including 400 level courses that have no corresponding 500 number, although they have been typically taught under a generic 500 number. An attempt was made to resolve these inconsistencies at the beginning of Spring Semester 2006 by meeting with the Graduate Council subcommittee; however, the committee found too much variation in the course descriptions and learning outcomes and asked for revised syllabi to be submitted. In the interim, a senior colleague who was responsible for two of these courses, passed away, and the department hired four new faculty. The Graduate Committee of the Department of History decided to table these revisions for next year as new proposals will have to be submitted in addition to those previously considered.
Mentored Discussion-Based Courses
As noted in the Assessment Report submitted by the undergraduate advisor, the Department revived the experimental, discussion-based courses taught by mentored, first time graduate assistants in fall 2004. The assessment addressing the undergraduate program need not be repeated here, but there is significant overlap of information from the same documents as appended. Here, the focus shifts to the experience of the graduate students who were involved in teaching. Matt Bloom, who taught his own class for the very first time in Spring 2006 semester stated, “This is a worthwhile program that should remain a key part in the history doctoral program. Guidance and feedback from the mentoring professor put me at ease in teaching and helped me to focus on developing and implementing my course.” Another graduate participant, Erik Towne, stated, “this model provided general supervision of our classes, while allowing us to develop individual teaching pedagogies.” Towne’s over all experience was generally positive and he recommended that the Department continue the program. Other faculty members have been engaged in mentoring on a more informal basis through graduate enrollment in individualized instruction courses designed specifically for mentoring in teaching. Two graduate students, Luke Nichter and James Rose, worked under the supervision of Walter Grunden during fall and spring semester for mentoring in Asian Civilizations (180) and World War II (303) respectively. During these courses, the graduate students were required to give lectures, lead class discussions, grade essays, and help to write assignments and exams. Both of these graduate students will be teaching their own sections in Autumn 2006 and should be well prepared to do so. Whether through a more structured and formal regimen, or a more individually supervised class, the Department endeavors to prepare graduate students for the future marketplace in teaching at a variety of levels. The Graduate Committee will take up discussion of both these approaches and examine whether a more systematic approach is in order.
Revised Guidelines and Learning Outcomes for 100- and 200-Level Courses, Incorporated into Departmental Guidelines April, 2006
1. Guidelines for all 100- and 200-level courses
a. The following will appear on all syllabi. A syllabus checksheet (both paper and electronic version) will be kept in the Department Office to facilitate implementation into course syllabi.
1) Course title and catalogue description (as listed in the BGSU Undergraduate Catalogue)
2) Instructor’s name, office hours, office telephone, and e-mail address
3) Learning outcomes. Students will:
i) learn about the historical development of their own and other cultures.
ii) learn how to think about the past historically by identifying and critiquing historical interpretations and analyzing issues in historical context
iii) learn to select and use evidence from a variety of sources, including primary sources.
iv) enhance their ability to communicate clearly and persuasively, both orally and in writing.
v) improve their ability to recognize and develop connections between historical issues and life outside the classroom.
vi) improve their ability to think critically and argue effectively.
vii) enhance their ability to examine current issues from a historical perspective.
4) Instructor Responsibilities
i) Select and present course content
ii) Identify themes to be emphasized
iii) Evaluate student historical understanding and skills
iv) Communicate these evaluations to students in a timely manner
v) Assist students in improving their skills
5) Student Responsibilities
i) Complete required readings
ii) Attend class regularly
iii) Participate in class activities and discussions
iv) Communicate with instructor (using office hours, e-mail, telephone during office hours)
v) Complete of assignments on time
vi) Notify instructor of any disabilities in a timely manner
6) Timetable for major class events (e.g., examinations and quizzes, essays due, oral presentations, special discussion days, film viewings, guest speakers, field trips), with caveat that necessary changes will only be made with adequate, advance notice.
7) Final grade: method of calculation and values assigned to each activity
b. Specific Learning Outcomes
In order to achieve a passing grade in 100- and 200-level courses, students will be required to demonstrate the following.
1) An ability to gauge similarities and differences, identify trends and patterns, distinguish between change and continuity, recognize cause-and-effect relationships, consider degrees of agency among both dominant and subaltern groups, and think about the past historically by identifying and critiquing historical interpretations and analyzing issues in historical context.
2) An ability to write strongly-structured paragraphs and short papers that offer a specific thesis backed by logic, that are consistent with evidence and include specific historical examples, and that are grammatically correct, clearly written, and properly cited.
3) An ability not only to distinguish between primary and secondary sources, but also to interrogate primary sources by considering origin, content, and audience in proper historical context, and to interrogate secondary sources by considering thesis, scope, and use of evidence. In addition, students must indicate an ability to interrogate different media beyond standard written texts.
4) An ability to engage with other students and their ideas through active classroom participation in discussions, active participation in online discussions, or a combination thereof.
In addition, students will be encouraged to
5) Consider the ways in which historical narratives are constructed, rather than immutable.
6) Improve their ability to recognize and develop connections between historical issues and life outside the classroom.
7) Enhance their ability to examine current issues from a historical perspective.
c. The form of evaluation will be at the discretion of instructors, but at least 50% of students’ overall evaluation must be based on student writing. This does not mean that 50% of each individual assignment, quiz, or test must be consist writing, but that within the total framework of the course, at least 50% of the total grade will be based on instructors’ evaluation of written work.
2. Specific Guidelines for the Teaching of History 151 and 152
a. In order to analyze patterns, trends, and/or problems, at least two distinct regions should be used as case studies.
b. In order to show the operation of historical factors over time, at least one region should be sufficiently distinct from the other(s).
c. At least oneregionstudied should be non-Western (if the West is used as the primary focus) or Western (if a non-Western region is used as the primary focus).
3. Specific Guidelines for the Teaching of History 180
a. Interdisciplinary studies examine civilizations of China, Korea, Japan, and India. Emphasis is placed on how and why socioeconomic, political and intellectual developments shaped traditional cultures of East and South Asia.
b. Comparative studies examine the modern transformation of East and South Asia. Major concepts of colonialism, nationalism, communism, militarism and democracy are examined in the context of 19th and 20th century Asian experiences.
4. Specific Guidelines for the Teaching of History 205 and 206
a. Courses shall cover major historical events and trends, for example, for 205 first contact among European and Native groups, the development of slavery, colonial wars, the American Revolution and the founding of the United States, sectional development and national expansion, the Civil War and Reconstruction; and for 206, industrialization and modernization, the progressive era, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, and the post-Cold War era.
b. Courses shall address continuities and change in politics, economics, and culture, with attention to issues of race, class, gender, and ethnicity.
c. Courses shall provide coverage of all major regions of the United States.