This draft encompasses comments from CA2 faculty members, the new CA2 subcommittee members, and the GEOC as of February 5, 2007.
1. We hold to the scientific principle that an assessment can only be useful to the university if corresponding variables measuring other potentially meaningful sources of variation are considered in any analysis of student learning outcomes. If such corresponding variables are ignored, there will be no empirical basis on which to decide what aspects of opportunities for general education should be maintained or changed.
2. We are deeply concerned about two major practical aspects of conducting assessments. First, that certain methods of assessment (e.g., portfolios) would require a major allocation of additional resources by the administration without which such assessments cannot be performed. Second, that allocation of necessary additional resources should not detract from other important university missions such as continued improvement of undergraduate majors, graduate education, and especially research.
Introduction and Definitions
Definition of Social Sciences for General Education (UConn Senate, 5/12/03): The social sciences examine how individuals, groups, institutions, and societies behave and influence one another and the natural environment. Courses in this group enable students to analyze and understand interactions of the numerous social factors that influence behavior at the individual, cultural, societal, national, or international level. They use the methods and theories of social science inquiry to develop critical thought about current social issues and problems.
The general education requirements passed by the University Senate in 2003 require that each student take two courses in the social sciences (Gen Ed Content Area 2). Courses in Content Area 2 are expected to fulfill a series of four criteria also approved by the Senate (see below).
At the direction of the Provost’s office, UConn has begun developing procedures for assessment of its programs. There is a current emphasis on assessment of undergraduate education, including categorical assessment of the general education requirements (see www.assessment.uconn.edu/ for details.)
At this stage, the Category 2 (CA2) sub-committee of GEOC is attempting to establish a series of learning goals and associated learning objectives that are consistent with the social science course criteria approved by the Senate.
Learning goals are what the faculty intends students to know after completion of two courses in the social sciences content area. The learning goals described below are derived from the specific criteria of Category 2 courses.
Learning objectives are assessable and/or demonstrable student achievements and abilities arising from the completion of those courses. Such objectives are measurable reflections of the content area’s learning goals. The learning objectives listed below are not meant to be re-worded into test questions themselves, but rather are intended to serve as guides to faculty developing assessment instruments.
An initial set of goals and objectives was developed by the CA2 subcommittee in April, 2006 and circulated to faculty in October. An open meeting concerning the initial set was held on October 20. That initial set of goals and objectives has been revised to reflect comments made at that meeting and other responses.
CA2 Criteria, Learning Goals, and Learning Objectives
Criterion 1. Introduce students to theories and concepts of the social sciences (UConn Senate, 5/12/03).
Learning goal 1. Students should be familiar with a selection of social scientific theories and concepts.
Learning objective 1a: Identify strengths and weaknesses of at least two social science theories from different fields as appropriate to completed course work in CA2. (It will be necessary for individual departments or programs to provide relevant lists of theories.)
Learning objective 1b: Identify and explain at least three fundamental social science concepts as appropriate to completed course work in CA2. (It will be necessary for individual departments or programs to provide relevant lists of concepts.)
Criterion 2. Introduce students to methods used in the social sciences, including consideration of the ethical problems social scientists face (UConn Senate, 5/12/03).
Learning goal 2. Students should be familiar with some methods used in the social sciences including the ethical considerations of their use.
Learning objective 2: Identify and explain a method commonly used in social science research, including the ethical considerations of its use, as appropriate to completed course work in CA2. (It will be necessary for individual departments or programs to provide relevant lists of methods.)
Criterion 3. Introduce students to ways in which individuals, groups, institutions, or societies behave and influence one another and the natural environment (UConn Senate, 5/12/03). Learning goal 3. Students should be aware of some of the types of interactions that occur among individuals, groups, institutions, societies, and/or the natural environment.
Learning objective 3: Apply a theory and selected concepts from social science to such interaction as appropriate to completed course work in CA2. (It will be necessary for individual departments or programs to provide relevant lists of interactions.)
Criterion 4. Provide students with tools to analyze social, political, or economic groups/organizations (such as families, communities, or governments), and to examine social issues and problems at the individual, cultural, societal, national, or international level. Social issues that might be addressed include gender, race, social class, political power, economic power, and cross-cultural interaction (UConn Senate, 5/12/03).
Learning goal 4a. Students should be able to analyze the general structure and operations of groups or organizations in the context of social science.
Learning goal 4b. Students should be able to analyze social issues and problems in the context of social science.
Learning objective 4a: Describe the role of a selected group’s or organization’s impact on an important social issue or problem, as appropriate to completed course work in CA2. (It will be necessary for individual departments or programs to provide relevant lists of groups and organizations.)
Learning objective 4b: Discuss an important social issue or problem, as appropriate to completed course work in CA2. (It will be necessary for individual departments or programs to provide expectations with respect to discussions.)
Assessment is to be considering an ongoing process, conducted as needed to support teaching and learning. This document defines the learning goals and objectives for content area 2, which were designed to inform teaching of general education courses approved within that area. In turn, teaching influences learning, and one aspect of assessment is to measure learning outcomes in such a way to inform faculty members of what teaching methods and topics are successful in helping students achieve learning objectives and what means of learning may be in need of change.
Because the particular learning goals each course is designed to meet have been developed by the faculty members of relevant departments, we feel that the learning outcomes should be developed by departments and instructors so that the outcomes are appropriate to the course content and the methods of instruction. We also recognize that courses approved under CA2 may not have been designed to meet all the learning goals of the area.
To help departments decide how to measure learning outcomes in ways that are most useful to them, the GEOC will host workshops for each content area to provide examples of different ways of measuring learning outcomes and how they could be informative to faculty members and to provide information about instructional support resources (e.g., ITL).
Click here to view the “Assessing Content Area 2: Phase I Report“