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Learning Outcomes and Assessment


I. Background

A. Definition of Discipline and Major Field

The Department of English seeks to educate students to be literate, linguistically proficient individuals with a firm grounding in the cultural and critical contexts of Western thought. The major in English implies that human experience can be effectively understood, appreciated, and communicated through the written word. It furthermore recognizes that humankind knows and learns through aesthetic cognition as well as through intellectual analysis. Undergraduates in this discipline thus study the English language and its historically produced canons of literature in order to learn about themselves and to become more aware of the human condition.

B. Outcomes of the Major Program

Overview: The English major should acquire a reasonably broad knowledge of Western literature, focused skills in written expression, a technical understanding of the English language, an ability based on critical theory to analyze literary works, facility in research procedures, an awareness of how literature contributes to the shaping of cultural history, and finally the self- knowledge and intellectual curiosity that characterize liberally educated persons. Ultimately the English major, having developed in all these areas, should be able to exercise the perspicacity and balanced judgment required of an informed citizen-scholar.

  1. Students are expected to master the methods employed in the field of English studies, as measured initially in ENGL 2300 (Practical Criticism: Research and Methods) and at the completion of their course of study in ENGL 4384 (Senior Seminar), a course that requires students to demonstrate advance writing skills (including peer editing and multiple stages of preparation) and apply current theoretical and practical issues in the critical analysis of literary texts.

  2. Students are expected to achieve competence in knowledge of the content areas that are covered by a representative range of course offerings of the Department, as measured by course assessments, the Senior Seminar, and post-baccalaureate surveys and standardized examinations.

  3. Students will demonstrate in both oral and written work a discipline-specific critical facility through convincing and well-supported analysis of related aterial.

  4. Students will demonstrate their command of academic English and the tenets of sound composition by means of thesis-driven analytical prose.

  5. Students will become conversant with representative literary texts and selected critical issues in literary history that allow for integration of the aims of the discipline.

II. Expected Results of the Program

Students will demonstrate that they:

A. Are adept writers in command of standard written English and of options for effectively presenting ideas and evidence.
  1. The student should be able to use and respond to complex structures of discursive prose.

  2. The student should demonstrate fluency in a grammatically accurate and rhetorically engaging style of writing.

  3. The student should conceive, arrange, and articulate ideas logically and clearly.
B. Are familiar with the characteristics and development of the major literary genres.
  1. The student should be able to identify the formal elements of fiction, poetry, and drama.

  2. The student should have a broad understanding of how these genres changed and evolved over time.
C. Are conversant with the content and defining traits of representative literary periods.
  1. The student should be acquainted with the most influential British and American writers and their major works.

  2. The student should be able to enumerate seminal features of the periods comprising Anglo-American literary history.
D. Are aware of prevailing theories, approaches, and practices related to the study of literature and language.
  1. The student should demonstrate knowledge of the practice of literary criticism, both procedurally and substantively, in analyzing literary works.

  2. The student should be able to differentiate such critical methodologies as are employed by formalist, psychoanalytic, archetypal, and poststructuralist readers.
E. Are capable of critical thinking that takes into account the variety of human experience and significant differences among cultural value systems.
  1. The student should understand how culture is a variable matrix in the production of literary texts.

  2. The student should be able to recognize how literature inscribes and often challenges cultural ideologies and myths.

  3. 3. The student should be acquainted with the contributions of writers outside the British and American canons.
F. Can convincingly analyze, interpret, and explicate literary texts in light of pertinent critical assumptions.
  1. The student should be capable of conducting independent research on a literary topic.

  2. The student should be able to synthesize the results of such research in a correctly documented paper written in accordance with current professional standards.
G. Can relate the facts and ideas of the discipline to other fields and explore their correspondence, particularly within the context of Western intellectual history.
  1. The student should be acquainted with the relationships between literature and other expressions of culture, such as art, music, philosophy, and religion.

  2. The student should understand the points of congruence and complementarity between literature and other disciplines within the humanities and sciences.

III. Assessment Measures: Procedures

A. English 2300

Under our revised curriculum a required cornerstone course (ENGL 2300), a prerequisite to upper-division study, will introduce the principal approaches of literary criticism as well as the process and practice of research methodology. Focused around the writing of a comprehensive research project and several shorter essays, the course is limited to 15 students and will be instrumental in assessing achievement of II. A, D, and F above.

B. English 4384

A mandatory capstone seminar (ENGL 4384) will gauge, by means of an extended essay and oral presentations, the graduating senior's ability to synthesize and reflect upon not only the major experience but also its relationship to other disciplines as well. Enrollment in the course, to be offered every fall and spring semester, typically will be restricted to 12 students. Taught on a rotating basis by members of the tenure-track faculty recognized for both their scholarship and teaching abilities, ENGL 4384 will entail assessment of II. A, E, F, and especially G above. A journal of critical essays which will be intellectually organized, written, edited, and produced by the seminar participants collaboratively will serve as documentation of the skills they have mastered in the program.

C. Senior Exit Interview

In conjunction with the senior seminar, seniors will be required to participate in an exit interview structured to determine their response to the major program and range of knowledge acquired through the curriculum. The senior seminar instructor will conduct interviews. Data collected from the exit interview will be used in assessment of II.B, C, and G above.

D. Field Evaluations

The department is exploring the possibility of using field evaluations devised by either the Educational Testing Service (ETS) or the Project for Area Concentration Achievement Testing (PACAT) to evaluate student learning outcomes. These would be administered each semester, subject to a sufficient number of students participating, to assess majors' factual knowledge against national norms. Completion of the test would permit students who have otherwise satisfied degree requirements to graduate. The results gleaned from this instrument will be of considerable value in measuring achievement of II. B, C, and E above.

E. Alumni Survey

The department is considering a survey of recent English alumni to be conducted once every three years, to solicit data on the value of the program to career skills, professional advancement, and personal fulfillment. Results from the survey will provide a periodic evaluation of the Department's programs, curriculum, pedagogy, and faculty, with analysis of the data derived from the questionnaire to be completed by the Office of Institutional Research. Tabulated responses will contribute to assessing achievement in all areas of II above.

IV. Assessment Results

A. External Evaluations and Evaluators

At least one evaluation instrument will be an external exam or review in order to achieve some degree of juried objectivity. Such reviews might be accomplished through a visiting team of faculty reviewers or a nationally normed exam. See III.E above.

B. Departmental Review

After assessment materials and information have been gathered, an internal committee (typically one of the standing committees or an adhoc committee on assessment) will review results and report in writing to the unit chair with its recommendations. These recommendations will then be presented to the English faculty as a whole for revision before being forwarded to the Dean of Arts and Sciences.

C. Departmental Action and Administrative Support

All decisions to strengthen the major program will be implemented as soon as possible after the final departmental report has been sent to the next higher authority. Where improvements require additional financial support, it will be essential that ample funding be provided based upon assessment evidence.

D. Assessment Cycle

With the exception of the triennial survey of alumni {III.E), assessment as outlined above will occur regularly each year. The results of this effort will be conveyed in the chair's annual report on departmental performance and brought to the attention of appropriate administrative officers.