Is Political Science Academically Adrift? Designing More Effective Departmental Assessment Tools to Assess Student Outcomes
42 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2013
This paper discusses how one political science department revamped its departmental assessment program in 2010 after experiencing challenges with earlier assessment tools. The new assessment tool is a direct assessment of senior political science majors’ end of college knowledge of key political science concepts, critical thinking skills and ability to sort conventional public beliefs from research evidence. To provide a benchmark comparison, the same tool was given to freshmen in an introduction to political science course in the Fall of 2011. Findings from two years of assessments show that senior political science majors did gain in political science research knowledge and the ability to differentiate between what is commonly thought by the public from research evidence as compared to university freshmen. However, the findings also show that a number of challenges remain as there is a substantial gap between student outcomes and departmental learning goals. The findings raise larger questions about how to administer assessments, how to measure student learning outcomes and whether we are becoming 'academically adrift' as student gains between admission and graduation are marginal.
Keywords: assessment, critical thinking, political science
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