Philosophy Discipline Assessment 2006-2007


Scope of assessment activities

         ___√__Course-embedded assessment

                     ___√___ Pre- and post-testing

         ______ Outside the classroom

         ______ Across the discipline

Direct measures of student learning

         ___√__ Capstone experience

         ______ Portfolio assessment

         ______ Standardized tests

         ______ Performance on national licensure, certification or

                     preprofessional exams

         ______ Qualitative internal and external juried review of

                     of comprehensive senior projects

         ______ Externally reviewed exhibitions and performances in

                     the arts

         ______ External evaluation of performance during internships


Discussion and Description

Discipline goals, direct measures, and improved student learning


         1. Philosophy discipline objectives. The philosophy program offers students the opportunity to

Š      study the works of significant figures in philosophy

Š      investigate the fundamental problems and systems of thought that frame philosophical inquiry

Š      develop the ability to think and write critically and effectively

Š      cultivate the logical, analytical, and conversational skills necessary for stimulating and fruitful philosophical inquiry.


         2. Capstone course. Senior philosophical defense.

         There are five primary goals for this course, which aim at ensuring that the student can

Š      give a clear, in depth written exposition of some view in philosophy

Š      defend or criticize some view in philosophy

Š      give a clear oral presentation of some view in philosophy

Š      give a clear oral defense of some view in philosophy

Š      conduct a thoughtful discussion with peers and faculty on some view in philosophy.

During the course philosophy majors develop a substantial piece of philosophical writing, produce multiple drafts in response to comments from the whole philosophy faculty, and then orally defend the thesis.


         3. Evaluation and assessment.

         The philosophy faculty’s practice has been to discuss “the achievement of the program’s and defense’s goals only orally at the end of the majors’ senior defenses.”[1] That is, the degree to which each philosophy major achieved specific discipline and defense goals has not been measured quantitatively in the past. This will change next year with the introduction of numerical assessment tools that the faculty will use for each student and each programmatic/defense goal. See Faculty Senior Philosophical Defense Questionnaire and the Faculty Philosophy Questionnaire included in the appendices.


         4. Course-embedded assessment. Pre-test/post-test

         Introductory ethics. This course has no prerequisites and would be the introduction to formal philosophical discourse for many of the forty-five students in the course. The instructor, in a context that had nothing to do with course grades, sought to measure students’ “ability to present and critically evaluate arguments from our texts.”[2] The texts used for pre- and post-test were philosophical essays of comparable difficulty. The students’ twofold task in each was to “present a valid numbered argument” about the essay and to “identify premises that were vulnerable to criticism.” These tasks, of course, are a subset of the discipline’s goals. The pre-test was given during the seventh week of the semester after students had been exposed to philosophical terms and methods. The post-test was given at the end of the semester. Only a small fraction of the students on either test successfully completed the task, but whereas in the pre-test almost everyone was far from success, almost everyone on the post-test was on the “right track.” The instructor reports that this assessment tool suffered from its “all-or-nothing” design—students were successful or not. In the future he will use a sliding scale, will use articles and opinion pieces from the popular press in addition to philosophical essays, and will similarly measure student progress in acquiring conversational skills.


         5. Student evaluations of the program

         The philosophy faculty has relied heavily on student opinions of the major for making programmatic changes. Examples of these student surveys are included in the appendices.


General education categories spanned by the discipline


            Each philosophy course carries one of the following general education designators: Hum, communication, language, literature, and philosophy; M/SR, mathematical/symbolic reasoning; E/CR, ethical and civic responsibility; SS, human behavior, social processes, and institutions; or Hist, historical perspectives. Exceptions are directed study and the senior philosophical defense, which carry no general education designator.



[1] Quoted from the discipline assessment report, which is included in the appendices.

[2] Ibid.