CA2 Assessment and Learning Outcomes

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 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