Student Achievement Assessment Committee
Upon completion of a degree, students in English Department programs are expected to:
1. Use writing effectively—including current modes and evolving techniques and technologies—to explore subject matter and to communicate;
2. Develop understanding of subject matter in relation to larger historical and/or cultural contexts, including multicultural contexts;
3. Make connections between theory and practice. Students apply theory to understand texts, solve problems and teach effectively. Students generalize from experiences with texts, communication situations and teaching situations;
4. Develop skills of creative and/or critical thinking.
These outcomes are the general ones for all Department programs, while assessment efforts within the various programs varied in terms of which outcomes were addressed, including both the general outcomes and the ways in which they are tailored specifically to different programs.
1. Learning (or Service) Outcomes assessed this year:
The faculty in the Literature program continued discussions about our learning outcomes – specifically outcomes 2 & 3, above, that consider historical/cultural context and the connection of theory and practice. Discussions this year focused on how literature courses help prepare both BA students and ILA students, and how they might better serve both of these audiences in our sophomore level courses. The connections between sophomore-level courses and upper-division courses for majors were also discussed in terms of learning outcome 3: Do our sophomore courses adequately prepare our juniors and seniors for advanced study?
Although the Literature MA program was more successful in recruiting students this year, the Literature faculty continued to discuss how the new program, with limited resources, will be able to implement the Department’s learning outcomes.
At both undergraduate and graduate levels, the Creative Writing Program continues to assess all of its learning outcomes – the general ones described above, plus the specific outcomes for the MFA program – that encourage students (i) to develop their own style; (ii) to produce a book-length manuscript; (iii) to understand the place of their work in contemporary literature; (iv) to gain first-hand experience in literary publishing; and (v) to develop college-level pedagogical skills.
Rhetoric & Writing
The Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. program has tailored the general English Department the learning outcomes above to provide much more specific goals for that program. In summary, the program’s learning outcomes are to prepare graduates (a) to teach a range of rhetoric and composition courses; (b) to work in computer environments; (c) to understand the rhetorical tradition; (d) to understand the impact of rhetorical history on contemporary rhetorical theory; (e) to be able to discuss competing theories and contested issues in the field; (f) to be familiar with research in a variety of methodological systems; and (g) to understand the role of scholarship in faculty work (and to start such work with conference papers, article submissions, etc.).
Since these outcomes form the goals of the Ph.D. program, the faculty assessed all of them to some degree. This happened continually in student course work – since the curriculum and faculty expectations for student work have been shaped by the program goals – and in Prelim and Dissertation Proposal examinations. Under particular scrutiny was the “Goals-Based Assessment Sheet,” which is evolving into the principal means of assessment of learning outcomes.
English as a Second Language
Following a significant review process last year, the ESL Program underwent one final review in January 2005. An external consultant brought to BGSU by the College of Arts & Sciences reviewed our testing and placement procedures for ESL students entering the university. His recommendations will directly affect the success of the Department’s learning outcomes because they will change the procedures we currently follow for placing students in the classroom.
Scientific & Technical Communication
Last year, the S&TC program modified the general English learning outcomes to be more discipline-specific. The undergraduate and graduate programs outcomes are for students (A) to be able to communicate effectively to multiple audiences; (B) to be able to present information to multiple audiences verbally and graphically; (C) to be able to present information orally to multiple audiences; (D) to be able to understand the culture of business and industry; (E) to be prepared to communicate primarily within a single technical discipline of their choice; and (F) to be sensitive to and to be able to communicate with people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
2. Assessment Methods and Procedures:
Beginning in Spring 2004, the English Department added its learning outcomes to our student evaluation form for all programs at the graduate and undergraduate levels; students are asked to rate how well their ENG courses meet specified learning outcomes. The numbers generated by these questions are not used in the process of faculty evaluation for merit or promotion/tenure, but they do allow us to begin to assess how courses – or groups of courses – live up to our learning outcomes. Since we currently have only two semesters of evaluations available that include these questions available, I won’t make any observations about them this year. Next year, however, I hope to be able to report some results from this new opportunity for data collection.
The English Department’s Graduate Coordinator conducts exit interviews with as many graduate students as possible. The results of her interviews are integrated below, but attached also as an Appendix. These interviews are ongoing, since many students graduate in August.
The BA in English requires a senior thesis capstone project, which provides us with a measure of how well the program’s learning outcomes have been achieved. For the second time we implemented a day-long senior literature conference at which students presented a section of their theses in conference format, and responded to questions about their work.
Last year, faculty developed an exit survey that was distributed to graduating seniors to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the program and to help assess how our learning outcomes are achieved. Results of the survey will be used, in part, to revise the curriculum to better serve these ends. We continued to distribute this survey this year, and will continue to collate results in an ongoing process of assessment.
Each semester we require that students taking ENG 209 and wishing to continue as Creative Writing majors provide a sample of work and a five-page, typed, double-spaced self-assessment of their work and goals for the program. Each academic year this process results in about 20-25 new majors in the program. We examine these portfolios and self-assessments for evidence of all of our learning outcomes. In addition, graduating BFA majors produce a BFA thesis with a minimum five-page, typed, double-spaced introduction, in which they reflect on their work before entering the BFA Program and discuss their challenges and successes during the Program.
In the MFA Program, assessment of learning outcomes i, ii and iii is done through the comprehensive oral exam, the MFA thesis, and a survey of students for information on success in publication. Assessment for learning outcome iv is done through consultation with the editors of Mid-American Review. Assessment for learning outcome v is done through study of student evaluations for the Creative Writing courses taught, as well as information gathered from undergraduate students applying for continuation in the BFA major. Professors also frequently observe classes taught by graduate students. In addition, student performance in ENG 637, the newly established course in the pedagogy of Creative Writing, aids in our evaluation of students’ pedagogical skills.
Rhetoric & Writing
Assessment of the learning outcomes summarized in the previous section occurred in several ways this year. Since the learning outcomes center on the preparation of students for faculty careers, the faculty continually monitors the number of students who move to faculty positions (a high percentage again this year). It also works to keep track of career details and publications of graduates using e-mail contacts and the online newsletter Rhetoric & Writing Notes. Assessment of students is implicit and on-going, since the learning outcomes – and the more detailed materials used in our Goals-Based Assessment – influence the curriculum and shape faculty expectations for student performance. All Rhetoric & Writing faculty reviewed applications for non-service fellowships, which documented the success of outcomes (c) and (f), and participation in preliminary exams allows faculty to assess outcomes (c), (d), and (e). Computer-section teaching evaluations and work as staff members on Computers and Composition Online by students allow assessment of outcome (b). Tracking of student publication and conference presentation allows assessment of outcome (g).
These outcomes are also emphasized in the Goals-Based Assessment in which students keep notes on and examples of specific experiences and products – from course work, teaching, and professional activity – that align with and/or demonstrate their achievement of various learning outcomes. Documentation of student achievement occurs in a web portfolio developed in ENG 728 for professional and job-seeking purposes; development of these portfolios is supported by a Portfolio Development section in the program web site. In addition to that public portfolio – and as a precursor leading to its development – students are encouraged to use the Epsilen portfolio system; this is a new development referred to in section 4, below.
English as a Second Language
This year, the external consultant on testing and placement served as our principal assessment activity. We are currently in the process of hiring a new Director of the ESL Program and so other assessment procedures have been postponed until the new Director is in place.
Scientific & Technical Communication
Student learning and achievement of course goals and objectives is assessed through collaboration in writing workshops, individual and collaborative oral presentations, writing journals, objective tests on course readings, through instructor’s application of standard writing rubrics in the field to all information products (text, video, audio and web-based integrations thereof), job or postgraduate school placement, through a new exit survey, and exit focus groups.
3. Inferences from Assessments:
In general terms, the results from our surveys have yet to prove particularly illuminating; student responses seem more or less evenly divided, making a single course of action difficult to adopt. We will continue to conduct these surveys to see if a larger picture emerges, or perhaps refine the survey. Overall, though, our undergraduate majors seem to think that the program meets our learning outcomes and they seem mostly content with the program and faculty. I hope to be able to make some more specific remarks after looking at the data collected via our student evaluations.
In terms of our MA Program in Literary and Textual Studies, the feedback from our exit interviews was a little mixed. Students felt that various courses in the curriculum prepared them for research and thesis work, though they also felt that the range of courses available to them was somewhat more limited than they would like. Some students also felt that more community and professional development would be helpful – in short, the MA Program seems to address learning outcomes 1 and 4 relatively well, with more work needed on 2 & 3.
Our inferences from both the BFA theses and the portfolios to enter the major demonstrate that the students are fulfilling the learning outcomes. These documents present a picture of students who are learning to write effectively, and especially learning to respond to criticism and revise to improve their work. Also encouraging is the extent to which cultural awareness is shaping the creative lives of our writers – topics such as the role of religion in contemporary culture or racial conflict appeared in several theses. In terms of theory and practice, students are not only learning to write; they are learning how to learn to write; this awareness will make them better teachers—of themselves and of others. Finally, students are thinking creatively and critically about their work, raising good questions that will propel them in useful and productive ways into their upper division courses.
Following are some representative statements from thesis introductions written by graduating BFA majors.
1. Using Writing Effectively:
“ Dr. [ ] has taught me how to look critically at my own work. It was through him that I was able to walk into a workshop and hear from other students the problem areas (that I already suspected) in my story.”
2. Historical / Cultural Contexts:
“ These instructors, who were capable in leading discussions, were also knowledgeable in the subject that they were teaching. Each of these instructors brought with him the history, climate of times, the personal or social difficulties faced by the authors, and the ability to push the students forward in their growing knowledge of the written word.”
3. Theory and Practice (including teaching situations):
“ I learned, from the work I was shown and the way they talked about the craft, that intricately plotted stories, while certainly impressive, were not necessarily superior to stories that centered on the simplest of events and the characters’ emotional responses to them.”
“I have wanted to teach since my first poetry class at Bowling Green State University. I fell in love with the craft right away and began thinking of ways to teach it effectively.”
4. Creative and Critical Thinking:
“ I plan on exploring my writing through short stories. I enjoy touching on a moment in time and seeing how it affects the characters and how we can come to know them in such a short space.”
All MFA students passed a comprehensive oral exam. This oral exam tested the students’ knowledge of their place within the context of contemporary literature, and is a key aspect of assessing our graduates. In addition, all students produced a book-length thesis. The overall quality of the graduating class can be seen through the work produced at Bowling Green State University that has been published or accepted for publication. Especially notable: Dan Rzicznek (MFA ’05) won the Wick Chapbook competition in poetry; Maureen Passmore (MFA ’04) won the Distinguished Thesis Award at Bowling Green State University; Randy DeVita has had stories accepted for publication in Orchid and Third Coast. In addition, the publications of recent graduate has been especially impressive. Anthony Doerr’s (MFA ‘99) new novel was named a Washington Post Book of the Year: Melissa Fraterrigo (MFA ’00) has won the national Tartt First Fiction Award offered by Livingston Press and will see her first book in print next year. Alicia Conroy’s (MFA ‘00) first collection of stories, Lives of Mapmakers, will be published in January 2006 by Carnegie Mellon Press.
All MFA students teach in the GSW program, and also have taught one section of Creative Writing. As a group, the evaluations they received from their Creative Writing students were high. Some comments made were “The instructor did a good job showing how authors use certain writing techniques and how students could employ them in their own writing”; “Jeannie (Kidera) was a marvelous instructor”; “The class helped my writing without trying to change my writing style”; “Homework was productive – no ‘busy work’”; “The workshop was a great way to get many different opinions on one person’s writing.”
Rhetoric & Writing
In general, assessment reveals that students achieve the learning outcomes that the program has established as its goals, demonstrated by the overall achievement of the students in the program coupled with the very high level of achievement of some students. Here are some specific markers of this achievement. Strong student involvement in professional activities such as developing conferences papers relates to outcome (g). The very high quality of proposals for non-service assistantships this year relates to outcomes (c-f), as does the strength of dissertations defended this Spring – one of which one the university award for Humanities dissertations. A 100% placement rate indicates that Rhetoric & Writing Ph.D. students succeed in outcome (a), which, to a large extent, is a culmination of outcomes (b) – (g). Exit interviews revealed very positive responses to the Ph.D. Program as detailed in the Appendix.
English as a Second Language
External review has showed that the ESL Program has to revise its structure, as indicated last year. This process can begin following the successful hiring of a new ESL Program Director – currently underway.
Scientific & Technical Communication
The S&TC Program can claim near-100% placement of its undergraduates and graduates in business/industry environments or in MA or Ph.D. programs. This remarkable level of student success demonstrates that the program’s learning outcomes are being met and suggests that these outcomes are found to be extremely desirable both in the technical communication workplace, and in a variety of Ph.D. programs that accept our graduates.
Graduate student exit surveys were administered at the end of Spring 2005. Although inconclusive, preliminary results of the survey show that the majority of responses to survey questions were either 4 or 5 (good or excellent). In addition, two-thirds of the graduate and a third of the undergraduate students were interviewed in informal focus groups.
The survey and focus group feedback reinforces the earlier progress the program has made documenting both communicative effectiveness (A, B, C, and D) and business and technical success (D and E). The students unequivocally found the internships to be an invaluable way of establishing themselves within a business and/or technical setting. Considering the 100% placement rate of the graduate students and near-100% placement rate of the undergraduate students, this is a noteworthy accomplishment.
The practicum presentations and thesis defenses (and required portfolios and presentations) provided the students with opportunities to demonstrate criteria A, B, and C to in-house faculty, out-of-department faculty (in MA practica) and other interested parties. This year, all students who had practicum presentations and thesis defenses passed easily with positive comments from out-of-department faculty. In addition, two undergraduates with minors in technical communication had S&TC faculty on their thesis committees (both passed and received honors—one will be attending the University of Michigan as a Ph.D. candidate in the Fall and the other will be employed as a technical communicator in Philadelphia).
Several students indicated that there might be more attention paid to integrating technology teaching within the department courses. While there was a generally high satisfaction rate with the amount of technology training in the programs overall, there were some unsatisfied expectations of using these applications in department classroom situations.
Finally, the program was successful in accomplishing criterion F, sensitivity to and ability to communicate with people from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Students were nearly unanimous in their positive feedback on this accomplishment. What’s more, the graduate program continues to be made up of around 50% international students. Perhaps most telling was the fact that a graduate student from the United States had a cognate in International Business and will be relocating to Ecuador following her graduation.
4. Actions Taken/Program Improvements:
Some modifications were made to the curriculum following last year’s discussions, but further discussion about curriculum issues and enrollment is necessary. We hope that the data collected via the student evaluations will be helpful in allowing us to address these ongoing challenges.
Revision to the MA Program’s web site was continued this year. The Literature Program has also begun preliminary discussions with the American Culture Studies Program about aligning mutual interests as a way to help in recruiting students and providing more course options, as our exit interviews requested.
Some progress was made on our ENG 200 curriculum, with discussions about adding a service learning component to these BGX courses, along with a revision of the prerequisites to that course, to allow access to students in their freshman year.
Over the past several years, the Creative Writing Program has made major progress in curricular development: establishing the Thursday night readings; requiring vocabulary studies and examinations; requiring common readings and examinations of those readings; focusing individual courses on poetry theory and practice and fiction theory and practice; and requiring the self-assessment portfolios for students to continue in the program. We continue to see these initiatives pay off. Our base of declared majors continues to be strong. After having evaluated their self-assessment portfolios, the program accepted twenty new majors during the 2004-2005 academic year, and the total number of majors is close to one hundred.
The addition of ENG 637 has thus far been a success. Nineteen out of the twenty current graduate students signed up for the course during the spring semester, including many of those who had already taught Creative Writing in the fall and simply wanted to increase their knowledge and skill as teachers. We will be offering it again in the spring of 2006.
The loss of the Distinguished Writer position is a blow to the Creative Writing program; the department has asked for the position to be restored in the future, and we hope to see it become a permanent part of the program. One new initiative for a capstone course designed to focus specifically on the undergraduate thesis is currently on hold, due to the loss of this position and the need for current faculty to cover the classes that the Visiting Writer might have taught.
Rhetoric & Writing
This year, the program moved beyond its Goals-Based Assessment Sheet (in the direction growing out of a 2003 consultant visit funded by SAAC), to implement an internal web-based portfolio in addition to, and as a precursor, to the public professional portfolios students develop. Kris Blair worked with Milt Hakel to customize the learning outcomes matrix in Epsilen to match the program’s seven learning outcomes. The March “Third Friday” program meeting focused on this new development in order to orient students to the system. Further orientation and use of the Epsilen portfolio will take place in 2005-2006.
In 2004-2005, the faculty began the revision of the Preliminary Exam (set as a goal last year); for students entering in Fall 2005, the Specialized Exam will be a Portfolio Examination that will better align with the broad program goals and also mesh better with the program’s assessment-oriented portfolios. Work with the General Exam is ongoing at the year’s end. The faculty also implemented curricular adjustments (first-semester offering of ENG 722, annual offering of ENG 728, regular rotation of seminars on administration topics) mentioned in last year’s report as means of strengthening student preparation relating to several learning outcomes (a, b, c, and d).
English as a Second Language
The ESL Program is currently waiting until the appointment of its new Director before further progress can be made. I expect to be able to report more in this area next year.
Scientific & Technical Communication
The S&TC Program has initiated action to improve our programs in several areas. We are developing a new mission statement, which reflects the re-visioning of our programs initiated by new tenure-track faculty who co-directed the program this year. Program numbers for both the undergraduate and graduate program have declined in the last few years, and we have addressed this decline by developing new recruitment strategies that include the development of a new program website, which was completed this spring. Focus groups were conducted with six of the eight students who graduated from the MA program in order to cross-check information collected in the exit surveys (with a specific focus on how the classroom activities did or did not help students accomplish communication and business/technical outcomes). Finally, our program was improved (with funds from a $20,000 Ohio Learning Network Grant) by the development and addition of a new Online Graduate Certificate in International Scientific and Technical Communication, which is currently taking applicants for Fall 2005. This OLN grant also provided for a cross-department series of seminars—titled “Evening at the Studio”—to assist students and faculty members with their technology and application needs in-house. These efforts were specifically addressed towards improving student access to technology and software applications in completing their tasks.