Learning Outcomes & Assessment

In 2005, the University mandated that every academic program define its student learning outcomes and devise appropriate measures for periodically assessing those outcomes. As then Provost William Destler wrote to the faculty (14 September 2005), student learning outcomes focus “on what a student knows or can do after being involved in a course or program.”

In response to this mandate, the American Studies faculty formulated six goals for the undergraduate program:

  • To understand and apply interdisciplinary theories and methods.
  • To understand American Studies as a field, including current and emerging issues.
  • To broaden and deepen students’ cultural literacy, including visual and textual literacy.
  • To understand the political and historical dimensions of culture.
  • To understand the importance of cultural diversity in American society.
  • To connect students’ classroom and extracurricular learning in order to foster active, engaged citizenship.

At the end of the spring semester each year, a faculty committee assesses student learning outcomes by reviewing a sample of senior seminar (AMST450) papers. Each paper is assessed on a five-point scale using the following rubrics: 1) Raises a defensible and significant research question; 2) Demonstrates appropriate methodology; 3) Utilizes appropriate primary and secondary sources; 4) Presents a sound, well-reasoned argument; 5) Demonstrates ability to write clearly and effectively; and 6) Incorporates material on diversity as appropriate, either as primary sources or scholarly background.

The faculty uses the results of the annual assessment review as a basis for instructional improvement throughout the undergraduate curriculum.