The Department of Geology relies on a variety of tools to periodically assess its undergraduate program.
1. Student Evaluations
The standardized USU course evaluation form is provided to all students in all courses taught by Geology faculty to allow the students an opportunity to evaluate both the course and the instructor. Geology faculty commonly lead the College of Science in these university-wide teaching evaluations and the Department was awarded the first USU Department Teaching Excellence Award in 2003.
2. Senior Interviews
Towards the end of spring semester, the department hosts a "feed and feedback" reception for graduating students. After a brief social, the group disperses into one or more groups of four to six students and two to three faculty to discuss student perceptions of major courses, skills achieved, inter?relationships between courses and concepts, et cetera. Each faculty team records information without identifying students and submits the report to the department head for compilation. Results are discussed at a faculty meeting and it often results in programmatic changes. This format has been found to be more effective than a brief experiment with "oral" content exams for graduating seniors. We now find that students are more relaxed, feel less threatened and are very responsive.
3. Geology Department Questionnaire
Geology faculty have implemented an assessment tool devised by the geology faculty at Illinois State University. As used there, it consists of a written questionnaire which is given on entry into the program and then again prior to graduation. We have modified this questionnaire to make it more appropriate for our program. It is given first to students entering Geol 3550 Sedimentation?Stratigraphy, generally the first upper?division geology course taken by majors, and then is given again at the conclusion of Geol 5200 Geology Field Camp, our program's capstone experience.
Results of the "before" and "after" versions are then compared to get a sense of "value added" assessment; i.e., skills learned or improved over that transition. Geol 5200 has been taught many times since we implemented this questionnaire, so we now have a sufficient population to make the results statistically valid. The results demonstrate that there is measurable accomplishment in the transition between these two courses.
4. College of Science Interviews and Questionnaire
Each year, the Dean of the College of Science interviews a number of majors from each department in the college. In addition, every student applying for graduation in the College of Science is given a questionnaire to complete. These collectively provide information on general student satisfaction with the degree program, courses, faculty and facilities. This information is collected anonymously and then returned to the department in the summer following graduation.
5. Alumni Surveys
Periodically, the department solicits information from its alumni regarding current undergraduate degree requirements. The alumni are asked to: 1) comment on the importance of topic areas and courses, 2) indicate which topics or courses have assisted them most in their careers, 3) indicate which courses they wished they would have taken or which we should require, and 4) with respect to using computers in their professional activities, recommend specialized software that we should be using with students today. The results are generally mixed, with most responses reflecting current individual employment specialties rather than the program in general.
6. Advisory Board
In April 2003, the department formed an advisory board that meets annually to provide input and advice on the evolution and strategic directions of the department. The advisory board consists of members drawn from a variety of professional backgrounds, including alumni of the department and non-alumni who have an interest in the department=s direction.
7. Self Study and External Review
The Department of Geology regularly conducts a Regents?mandated department self study and external review. The self study allows the faculty to reassess the program and its direction as well as its goals and objectives. The recommendations made by the external review team are used to modify and improve the program.
8. Faculty Program Assessment
Assessment information from these various sources is discussed and reviewed by all faculty and used to "tune up" or modify program objectives, course content and degree requirements. The single most important department activity for reviewing assessment as well as all other aspects of the program is the fall faculty retreat. This two?day meeting, prior to the start of fall semester, provides a period of reflection on the past year; an opportunity to make changes and/or modifications to requirements, policies and procedures; and a forum for planning for the coming academic year.