USING ASSESSMENT AND PROGRAM REVIEW TO STRENGTHEN GEOLOGY PROGRAMS- AN EXAMPLE FROM ALBION COLLEGE
In 2009, the Department of Geological Sciences developed a new assessment plan that included six goal/outcome areas: content, communication, critical thinking, creativity and initiative, earth science methods, and graduate preparedness. The goals/outcomes of the first five categories are assessed throughout our academic program in traditional courses, directed studies, departmental colloquia, research experiences, and a senior exam. The intersection of our assessment goals and our program elements is monitored through an assessment matrix. Graduate preparedness is assessed using extensive alumni data collected through our annual Alumni Newsletter, published for the past 30 years. The alumni database has proved an asset in both assessment and program review.
The assessment planning process gave us an opportunity to redefine our goals and led to a major revision of our mission statement, clarifying our role in the context of a liberal arts college. Our department’s plan was used as a model for other programs. Continued assessment has enhanced the awareness and understanding of what is happening across our curriculum, which in turn, has enhanced linkages between courses and resulted in changes to our courses and curriculum. For example, results from an integrative problem-solving exercise on our senior exam have led to the addition of similar exercises in Structural Geology. Assessment of field note-taking skills in several courses has resulted in more intentional teaching of field geology both in the classroom and field. Inclusion of surface and atmospheric processes as a content goal category led to the adoption of Geomorphology as a required course for geology majors.
Our success with assessment provided us with a solid foundation to engage in program review. Most of the questions asked during program review were already part of our assessment plan.