English 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. English discipline objectives. Students learn to

Š      discuss, orally and in writing, what they have read: how the author has structured the text, and how literary language achieves its effects and directs the readers’ response to the text.

Š      be effective critical and imaginative readers and writers.

The English program engages students in the study of primarily British and American literature of different periods, with an emphasis on various approaches to literary study.


         2. Assessment across the discipline[1]. This is achieved through a three-fold approach of assessing

i.      the college writing program

ii.     the gateway course to the major

iii.   the capstone course.

In all three instances, there are variations on the pre-test/post-test method (testing = annotating or writing) and strategies for improving student learning.


         3. Assessment of College Writing.

         3a. Overview.

         College Writing fulfills a general education requirement for all UMM students. The current course goals are the result of English faculty deliberations in 2002-2003 that align their concerns with those expressed in a cross-disciplinary survey of the college faculty.

         3b. Three broad goals. Students should be able to

Š      state an argumentative thesis clearly at the beginning of a paper.

Š      analyze (rather than merely summarize) evidence for that thesis.

Š      appropriately revise the paper’s content and/or form in response to peer and instructor feedback.

         3c. Specific learning objectives. By the end of the course students should be able to

Š      understand and recognize the basic conventions of effective academic writing.

Š      articulate a specific and argumentative thesis.

Š      develop and organize an argument.

Š      supply and analyze appropriate evidence in support of a claim.

Š      understand citation norms and use an appropriate citation format.

Š      paraphrase, summarize, and effectively quote sources.

Š      locate sentence-level errors in their writing and find answers/help in a reference book.

Š      understand writing as a process (planning, drafting, revising, editing).

Š      make meaningful and substantive revisions in their own work.

Š      offer constructive comments, both in writing and orally, on peers’ work.

         3d. Portfolio assessment.[2]

         Students wrote three drafts of each required paper. The final portfolio consisted of the third draft of all papers. For each draft and for each of the three broad goals in 3b, the instructor rated each student in one of three categories: having mastery; having competence; or lacking competence. This method measured the degree of achievement of course goals and the degree of improvement for each student. The set of ratings for the semester measured achievement and improvement for the class as a whole.

         3e. A conclusion and moving forward.

         The instructor concludes that “our current methods of assessment in these areas are generally successful.” She states that two English faculty have been awarded a grant to revise the course syllabus to “result in more effective cross-disciplinary preparation for our students.”


         4. Assessment of the gateway course. Introduction to Literature.

         4a. Overview.

         “This course was introduced in 2003 to address a substantial shortcoming in students’ preparation for upper-level English courses.”[3] The vehicle for addressing this shortcoming is poetry analysis, a task that students find particularly difficult.

         4b. Course learning objectives.[4] They are to improve students’

i.      ability to READ carefully and actively.

ii.     ability to understand and discuss literature analytically, using the conventional terminology.

iii.   understanding of and ability to implement processes of making a critical argument.

         4c. Assessment tool.

         Students annotate a poem at three times during the semester. Each time and for each learning objective the student is rated as having mastery, having competence, or lacking competence. The instructor discusses the first annotation with the students, who then practice annotating in class with instructor feedback. The second and third annotations measure improvement and the degree to which the learning objectives have been met.[5]

         4d. Future issues.

         The English discipline is discussing, as any large discipline should, the problems that arise from having multiple instructors in the course who approach the material in slightly different ways. Another is issue is to make certain that students, who by and large are reaching the learning objectives, retain those abilities. The discipline is discussing whether an annotation exercise should be employed early in all of the survey courses to reinforce those skills.


         5. Assessment of the capstone course. Research seminar.

         5a. Overview.

         All English majors must complete at least one research seminar from the list of ten in the 2007-2009 University of Minnesota, Morris Catalog.

         5b. Learning objectives. The seminar adds two to those listed for the discipline:

Š      the development of sophisticated research skills.

Š      the ability to engage publicly with current debates in the field.

         5c. Assessment tools.

         In reaching the first objective, students must produce an annotated bibliography, which is judged on the number and quality of the sources, and on the quality of the annotations.[6] The bibliography provides the basis for writing a substantial research essay, about ten pages in length.

         To reach the second, students must give a fifteen to twenty minute oral presentation in the public English Research Symposium, which follows models of conferences attended by English academics. This includes being a member of a panel.

         5d. Improving student learning.

         To address weaknesses in preparing annotated bibliographies, finding appropriate sources will be introduced into junior level survey courses, as well as the art of writing annotations, and more time will be devoted to sources in the seminar itself. Problematic bibliographies received faculty and conference attention. Faculty critiqued drafts of essays.


General education categories spanned by the discipline


            Three English courses carry the CW, college writing, general education designator. Almost all others carry one of the following: Hum, communication, language, literature, and philosophy; HDiv, human diversity; ArtP, artistic performance; or Envt, people and the environment. The only exception is directed study, which carries none.



[1] The complete assessment report is in the appendices.

[2] The discipline report in the appendices gives numerical details of assessment in one eighteen-student section of college writing.

[3] Ibid.

[4] These are abridged from the full text in the appendices.

[5] The appendices contain numerical results for sections from 2005 and 2007.

[6] The discipline report discusses qualitatively the strengths and weaknesses of these bibliographies.