ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES IN  GENERAL EDUCATION
NATURAL SCIENCES  2003-2004

The assessment of student learning in natural sciences is based upon best practices and the expertise of department chairpersons from the departments of biology, chemistry, earth sciences and science education and physics.

General Education Natural Sciences requirement:  All students must successfully complete two natural science courses from an approved course list.

I.    Outcomes/Objectives:

Category 1:

A.

Students will demonstrate the ability to use observational techniques as a method for exploring one of the disciplines in the natural sciences.

B.

Students will demonstrate the ability to develop hypotheses related to phenomena in one of the disciplines in the natural sciences.

C.

Students will demonstrate the ability to measure and collect data related to the exploration of one of the disciplines in the natural sciences.

D.

Students will demonstrate an understanding of experimental design and the ability to evaluate evidence as it applies to one of the natural sciences.

E.

Students will demonstrate the ability to apply the necessary mathematical analyses to describe and interpret outcomes related to natural science research.

Category 2:

A.

Students will demonstrate the ability to apply scientific data in one of the natural sciences.

B.

Students will demonstrate the ability to apply concepts in one of the natural sciences.

C.

Students will demonstrate the ability to apply models in one of the natural sciences.

II.    Student Performance

An objective exam will be developed by faculty from the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Science Education and Physics.  The exam will include questions covering the eight outcomes/objectives listed above.  An attempt will be made to develop a single standardized exam that could be administered to students in any natural science general education course for the purposes of assessment. However, the individual departments may also choose to develop a more discipline-specific exam as long as it covers the required learning outcomes/objectives and is of comparable structure and difficulty as the standardized exam.

III.    Assessment Criteria/Standards:

The objective exams will be evaluated by faculty from the Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Science Education and Physics departments.  Initially , we will use the following scale to determine if students are exceeding, meeting, approaching or not meeting the learning outcomes/objectives in each category listed above:

% correct answers in
Category 1 or 2

Result

>65% 

Exceeding the standard

50-65%

Meeting the standard

35-50%

Approaching the standard

<35%  

Not meeting the standard

This scale may be adjusted based upon annual reviews of student performance both within and among the natural science departments (see below).

IV.   Sampling

The natural science departments will administer the objective exam to at least 10% of the students in their general education courses each semester.  For a given semester, we expect that this will involved approximately 200 students (about 100 students in Biology courses, 40 students in Chemistry courses, 50 students in Earth Science courses and 20 students in Physics courses).  This sampling procedure will result in a relatively large sample size each semester, which should be sufficient to assess proficiency and yet would not overburden the faculty.

V.    Feedback

Results of this assessment will be distributed and discussed annually at department meetings for each of the natural sciences.  Representatives of each of the departments will also meet annually to discuss the effectiveness of the objective exam and to aggregate the results from the various departments.