Introduction:

The Philosophy discipline met on August 25, 2010 to draft an assessment plan for the 2010-2011 academic year.  We decided that we will concentrate on critical reading skills as it impacts goal number one listed below. 

 

Learning Goals for Majors:

We reviewed the learning goals for our Philosophy majors as they are stated in the Philosophy Program Questionnaire that graduating seniors and Philosophy staff fill out after each studentŐs Philosophical Defense.  Here follow these learning goals:

 

1.     A primary Discipline goal is to enhance analytical skills. In general, this involves cultivating an ability to evaluate an argument, position, theory, etc.; to trace pertinent implications of the argument, position, theory, etc.; to introduce novel considerations or arguments that bear on the argument, position, theory, etc.

2.     A primary Discipline goal is to cultivate the ability to draw connections among theses, principles, positions, etc. introduced or discussed in one philosophy class with those introduced or discussed in other philosophy classes.

3.     A primary Discipline goal is to cultivate effective oral communication, including the ability to give clear oral presentations or summaries of issues, principles, theses, etc.; formulate relevant questions clearly; and tender clear responses to questions.

4.     A primary Discipline goal is cultivate the ability of students to write well.

5.     A primary Discipline goal is to ensure that students have a sufficiently broad foundation in ethics (broadly construed).

6.     A primary Discipline goal is to ensure that students have a sufficiently broad foundation in the history of philosophy (ancient, medieval, and modern).

7.     A primary Discipline goal is to ensure that students have a sufficiently broad foundation in logic.

8.     A primary Discipline goal is to ensure that students have a sufficiently broad foundation in epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of language.

 

These goals will be placed on the discipline website to make them readily available to current and perspective students as well as faculty. When discussing the content of individual courses, the faculty keeps these goals in mind.

 

Assessment Measures:

 

We decided that we would have three assessments during the course of the semester (beginning, middle, and end) where we would assign a reading from a text and have students reconstruct and evaluate the authorŐs argument.  We would (a) present the students with detailed instructions for the assignment, and (b) explain the criteria that will be used to evaluate their work (see the assessment sheet below). 

 

We then sketched a first draft of the assessment criteria, arriving at a set of basic assessment dimensions that would be used to measure student progress:

1. Reconstruction of the authorŐs main point and reasoning.  Content dimensions: (a) Did the student recognize all and only the steps of the authorŐs argument, and make it clear which were premises and conclusions?  (b) Did the student characterize argument in his or her own words?  Structure dimensions: Did the student accurately describe the logical structure of the argument?  Evidence for this would come from either (a) explicit statement of the logical rule that connects the argument, or (b) implicit use of such rules in their reconstruction.

2. Evaluation of the argument.  Evaluative dimensions: (a) Did the student draw pertinent implications from the argument and focus on relevant considerations (truth/falsity of statements, logical validity of the argument)?  (b) How convincing/strong was the evaluation of the argument and was the student able to introduce novel considerations or arguments that bear on the authorŐs position?

Each of these six questions would be rated as: 0=Lacks this quality altogether; 1= Needs major improvement; 2=Adequate; 3=Good; 4=Excellent.

 

We subsequently completed a final draft of the assessment document, which will be used to collect data; this document is in included below:

 

 

Text Box: ASSESSMENT CRITERIA FOR CRITICAL READING IN PHILOSOPHY 
0=Lacks this quality altogether
1= Needs major improvement
2=Adequate
3=Good
4=Excellent

CONTENT DIMENSIONS:

_____  RECOGNITION of all and only steps of the authorŐs arguments, by making  it clear which are the premises and conclusions.

_______ CHARACTERIZATION of the authorŐs arguments in the students own words.


STRUCTURE DIMENSIONS:
_______  EXPLICIT UNDERSTANDING of logical rule that connects the argument as evidenced	 by a clear statement of that rule.
_______ IMPLICIT UNDERSTANIDNG of the logical rule that connects the argument as	evidenced by an implicit use of the rule in the studentŐs reconstruction.
 EVALUATIVE DIMENSIONS:

_____ PERTINENCE/FOCUS on the relevant implications of the authorŐs arguments and the issues of the truth/falsity of statements and logical validity of the argument. 

_____STRENGTH of the evaluation of the authorŐs argument including the use of novel		 considerations or arguments that bear on the authorŐs position?


 

Future Assessment Plans:

The discipline will develop similar assessment measures for each of our primary learning goals (such as critical writing, critical thinking, critical speaking, and critical reading) and to focus on a different skill each year.  The data accumulated will be represented in Excel format so that faculty can examine longitudinal changes in the competence of students. 

 

Changes Based on Assessment:
The biggest changes involved addressing prior weaknesses in the disciplineŐs assessment techniques.  We have responded to these problems by creating an Excel document for storing and organizing the data that we are accruing, and by creating a more streamlined paper assessment guide for short papers.  We also resolved to post this guide on our individual websites/WebVista sites, and to require that students fill out their own estimated scores before handing in their papers.  The assessment discussions proved to be extremely valuable for the members of our discipline; it led to interesting, explicit discussions of our techniques for teaching and measuring success at our core learning skills.