Student Achievement Assessment Committee
2002-2003 Academic Year
Student Learning Outcomes for Geography Majors:
1. to know and apply geographic concepts in identifying, analyzing, and explaining spatial/global issues and processes;
2. to identify and analyze the past and present processes that contribute to the world’s constantly changing cultural and physical environments;
3. to ascertain the interrelationships and interactions between and among regions;
4. to collect, integrate, analyze, display, and communicate spatial information and data sources by using mapping skills, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and other tools and techniques such as air photo interpretation, remote sensing, statistics, and computers;
5. to apply spatial dimensions in analyzing issues and determining how human
perceptions and actions contribute to distinct global identities and regional variations.
The Department focused on three assessment initiatives this year: a capstone experience, geo-spatial skills, and atmospheric courses.
The Department placed special emphasis in assessing outcomes 1, 4, and 5 above. These outcomes allow the Department to assess the capability of its students in spatial analysis, the foundation of the discipline. An ability to perform spatial analysis inevitably leads to some assessment of related outcomes 2 and 3.
All geography majors this year undertook internships to fulfill their capstone requirement. In assessing learning outcomes, employer supervisors were asked to evaluate the following:
• Written and oral communication skills
• Quantity and quality of work done
• Problem solving skills
As has been our experience through the years, our students received high ratings from their employer supervisors. They are very well regarded and employers continue to return to the Department of Geography seeking more interns. Moreover, many interns are considered for permanent employment after their internships have been completed, when the funding for a permanent position is available.
In addition, a portfolio of work projects, a written report, a Departmental internship survey, and an interview with the Departmental internship advisor are used to assess:
• Ability to apply geographic concepts, collect data, and analyze spatial problems and communicate spatial information by using appropriate tools and techniques
• New knowledge and skills
• Practical experience
• Working with diverse groups
• Maturity and self-confidence gained
We have been impressed by their work which has shown an increasing degree of refinement as their internships have progressed. They exhibited an understanding and ability to integrate and apply what they learned to perform spatial analysis. They acquired new knowledge and skills, broadened their outlook of what exists in our society and the world, and have returned to campus with a stronger sense of their capabilities and a greater measure of maturity and self-confidence. The assessment showed that students benefited from, capitalized on, and appreciated the learning experience provided by their internships.
From the internship connections, the faculty members gain insights into how our students apply their training in a real world situation and the attendant problems they had to solve. This provides us with ideas about how to improve our course content and incorporate practical, real-world examples and projects that will be of interest to students in our courses.
Development of Geo-Spatial Skills
Two faculty members of the department undertook a pilot project this year to assess the development and application of geo-spatial skills, including geographic concepts, data and spatial information, and tools, such as maps, to understanding of the effect of space and place on issues. A survey of students’ perception of their abilities to perform various geo-spatial skills to understand the effects of geography was developed with assistance from Professor Milt Hakel. The questionnaire was also influenced by the rubric for investigation from the University Learning Outcome. It was administered to students at the beginning and at the end of their courses. This involves six courses, GEOG 122, GEOG 225, GEOG 321, GEOG 424, GEOG 426, and GEOG 425.
From their responses, the students indicated that their geo-spatial skills and understanding of the spatial concept had improved at the end of the course. Moreover, when comparing the student responses from the six courses, the ratings progressed to a higher plateau of skills as the course level increased. Students gained knowledge of geographic concepts and skills with an introductory course and continued to progress to higher levels in the upper division courses. Equally importantly, the survey gave the faculty members insights into modifying their courses in order to enhance student learning.
The results and the survey will be shared with the rest of the Geography Department with other courses included in next year’s survey.
A nationwide forecasting contest allows the Department to assess all of the above learning outcomes, 1 through 5, in our atmospheric courses. In order to do accurate forecasting, one must apply all the knowledge and skills in the learning outcomes.
The forecasting team is comprised of five members. The BGSU team consisting of a geography professor and four undergraduate students (two seniors, one junior, and a sophomore) entered in a nationwide weather forecasting contest. Each member of the team did forecasts for eight cities around the country during the academic year. They each prepared forecasts for one city over a specified period of time and then moved on to the next one. The accuracy of the forecasts determined the scores. The cumulative scores of the five members were totaled to determine the team ranking. The total score of each individual was used to determine the ranking in his/her respective division based on year in college. The Department offers atmospheric courses but not an atmospheric science/meteorology major. In this contest, the BGSU team competed against other national teams made up of faculty and graduate and undergraduate students from major universities with Ph.D. programs in atmospheric science/meteorology. There is no better means of assessment nor are the results more convincing than when our entries are tested in this challenging, nationwide contest.
The BGSU came in fifth out of a total of 39 universities that field teams, eclipsing universities with excellent programs in atmospheric science/meteorology, such as Michigan, Oklahoma, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Our seniors ranked eighth and fifty-second and the junior ranked fifty-fifth out of a total of 501 forecasters in the junior-senior division; our sophomore ranked twenty-eighth out of 269 forecasters in the freshman-sophomore division.
In this contest, student learning outcomes in our atmospheric courses are measured nationally against those of strong atmospheric science/meteorology programs. The results indicate that our atmospheric courses are sound, providing students with good knowledge, skills, and analytical abilities. With University support and resources, the Department can develop and offer a good atmospheric science/meteorology major.