Monday, November 13, 2006

The Initial Round of Our New Program-level Learning Assessment in Plant and Soil Sciences.

Catherine A. Perillo, Teresa Cerny-Koenig, Kathleen M. Williams, Caroline H. Pearson-Mims, Gary Brown, and William L. Pan. Washington State Univ, Dept of Crop and Soil Sciences, Pullman, WA 99164-6420

Several factors coalesced to cause faculty of Washington State University’s undergraduate degree programs in Crop Science, Soil Science and Horticulture to work together to develop and implement a more holistic approach to assessing the extent to which our students meet university and program learning goals. These included documentation for the upcoming university accreditation, increased cooperation between our departments through combined course offerings, and a need for revisiting each program’s learning goals to better align them with the university’s newly developed Six Learning Goals of the Baccalaureate (Critical and Creative Thinking, Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning, Information Literacy, Self in Society, Communication, and a Specialty area specific to each program). After revisiting the programs’ learning goals, we conducted a survey of our teaching faculty regarding the extent to which they emphasize each of the Learning Goals and subgoals for each undergraduate course they teach. The 45 courses surveyed were analyzed separately for each program. A new program-level assessment plan was then developed to focus on student proficiency toward learning goals at the sophomore and senior-level. Student group work was assessed in each of two courses (Crops/Hort 202, Soils 441) required by all students in the three degree programs. Faculty, employers, and students assessed student research posters in HORT/CROPS 202 and oral presentations on soil-plant management plans in SOILS 441. Faculty scores ranged from 2.6 to 3.0 (out of possible 6) for the sophomore course and 4.1 to 4.7 for the senior course, with inter-rater reliability of 89 and 87%, respectively. While 6.0 represents total mastery of the Learning Goals, 4.0 represents proficiency at the B.S. level. The increased scores at the senior level suggest that student proficiency does increase in our programs and can be documented by rubrics of comparable evaluation criteria at the different class levels.