Social Science Major

2005-06 Report





 1. Assessment of the discipline as a whole:


     a. Who is the person responsible for program assessment, data gathering and analysis in your discipline?


         Division of Social Sciences Vice-Chair also serves as the Social Sciences Major discipline coordinator, currently Jeffrey Ratliff-Crain


     b. What are the stated goals of your discipline?


         The Social Sciences Major is an interdisciplinary major housed within the Division of Social Sciences.  The stated objectives of the major are for students to understand how each social science discipline structures and advances knowledge, raises and answers analytical questions, and deals with competing theories and the changing nature of the field. Students develop an area of concentration in a single discipline or an interdisciplinary social science area. 


With few exceptions, students pursuing the Social Sciences Major are also completing the Secondary Education licensure program.  Therefore, the major is structured around the needs of future Social Studies teachers as specified in Minnesota Rule 8710.4800 Teachers of Social Studies, as interpreted in consultation with the Secondary Education coordinator at UMM.


     c. How do you assess whether your discipline is achieving its goals?


         As an interdisciplinary major, we rely on input from individual disciplines as to the appropriate course or courses that fulfill the stated objective of understanding how each social science discipline structures and advances knowledge, raises and answers analytical questions, and deals with competing theories and the changing nature of the field.  Predominantly, the decision has been to use the introductory or survey courses to gain the needed breadth.


With regard to meeting the needs of students pursuing secondary education licensure for Social Studies, success rates for students meeting the licensure requirements is our best available measure. 


     d. Has your discipline modified its curriculum and/or teaching as a result of your assessment results, and if so, how?


         With the shift to semesters, beginning Fall, 2000, the Social Sciences Major needed to reevaluate the credit demands and course structure, as did all other programs at the University.  Through consultation with Secondary Education staff and Social Sciences Discipline faculty, it was clear that the area of concentration had heretofore been overly vague in its structure.  Specifically, the earlier criteria that such a concentration needed to be developed in consultation with a social sciences adviser and usually entail[ed] 12-20 credits beyond the minimum opened the door for over-emphasis on introductory level courses and resulted in confusion for students.  Beginning with the 2003-2005 catalog, the area of concentration was revised to reflect a given discipline's minor program.  The change was intended to make the intent behind the major clearer and assure that students would receive an appropriate complement of courses within their designated area of concentration.  Flexibility was still allowed for students to devise their own appropriate area of concentration, but the minimum expectations were clarified.  Also, timing for submitting a program plan was stated explicitly, limiting possible confusion.


Revision of appropriate courses to include for all majors (e.g., which introductory course in Economics) has occurred through consultation and feedback from Discipline coordinators.


Continued consultation with the Secondary Education coordinator has clarified for which courses substitutes may or may not be applied (e.g., through CLEP, AP exams, or introductory courses in another area of the field) because of students' licensure or employment needs.  For example, U.S. History should be taken as a college-level course because of the extent this area is expected for Social Studies teachers.


2. Assessment of your upper level seminar/capstone project or course:


         The Social Sciences Major does not, itself, require a capstone for our students.  Previous to semester conversion, program plans included a weakly defined capstone that was unevenly applied across areas of concentration.  By the time of conversion, only one discipline routinely required the capstone for these students.  Because of the practicum experience required of Secondary Education students, a capstone specific to the Social Sciences major seemed redundant and unnecessary.  This has left a gap for the occasional student who elects to complete a Social Sciences Major and not pursue licensure in Secondary Education, or is unsuccessful achieving that latter goal.  It is advisable that students either successfully achieve licensure or complete a capstone experience in order to receive a UMM degree with a Social Sciences major.  The structure and implementation for such a capstone will require some thought and discussion with colleagues (should it be focused within the area of concentration?  Should it reflect cross-disciplinary understanding?)  Developing this requirement will be a priority for the next scheduled catalog revision.


Submitted by: Jeffrey Ratliff-Crain, June 14, 2005, updated 2-22-06

To Assessment Results page