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Running head: ASSESSMENT PLAN
Developing an Assessment Plan for Temple University’s Undergraduate Program in the Department of Philosophy
Henry C. Alphin Jr. Drexel University 08/01/2009
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Mission and Goals Temple University Temple University, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a leader of professional education that “prepares the largest body of practitioners in Pennsylvania” (Temple, 2009). Temple is among the largest institutions of higher education, in output, “in the combined fields of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, podiatry, and law” (Temple, 2009). With a focus on serving students in the Greater Philadelphia region, Temple also reaches out to students throughout Pennsylvania, across the nation, and around the world. The university has international campuses in Tokyo and Rome, as well as programs in London, Beijing, and six other international locations (Temple, 2009). In focusing on international endeavors, Temple University aims to educate scholars from another the world who excel in their chosen disciplines and are preparing to be world leaders. In its mission, Temple University “seeks to create new knowledge that improves the human condition and uplifts the human spirit” (Temple, 2009). In continuously seeking to reach this goal, Temple is focused on recruiting faculty who: are excellent scholars, embrace diversity of opinion, and are willing to engage motivated students. Department of Philosophy In creating an assessment plan for the undergraduate program in the Department of Philosophy, it is essential to provide a mission statement and learning goals. To begin, it must be understood that humanities programs throughout the country and world are suffering due to budget cuts and apparent limited justification for the humanities. At crucial times, colleges are looking to make cuts in departments with low completion levels, lack of relevance to the current job market, and minimal student interest. At Temple University, we know that student interest in
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philosophy is, and has been, strong. Moving forward, it is imperative that we gauge completion levels, and then subsequently work on increasing those levels. Accordingly, we are well aware of the relevance of philosophy majors to the job market, but we understand that there are two issues: employers are not always aware of the relevance of philosophy major; students and graduates have not been effective in relaying their ability to employers. While students who complete a degree in philosophy are ardent critical thinkers and leaders with a focus on analysis, these students have not been able to convince employers of relevance, and thus we must focus on relating philosophical studies and the rigor of analysis to the real world. The mission of the Department of Philosophy is to educate students according to the transmission and preservation of knowledge through quality teaching, outstanding scholarship and robust research, and engagement through community service. In this endeavor, the department supports the mission of the university and further presses students to engage the world around them through a lifelong mission of community service, outstanding scholarship, and an endeavor to become community leaders and lifelong learners. The department is bifurcated into undergraduate and graduate programs, with the former offering a major and minor, and the latter offering the MA and PhD degrees (Temple University, 2009). While each program embraces the unified mission statement, the undergraduate program has a strong focus on general education and well-rounded depth of philosophy, whereas the graduate program offers more rigorous research and outlets for teaching at the doctoral level. Temple University’s Department of Philosophy has strengths in aesthetics, the philosophy of the arts, and the philosophy of culture, with expertise in the history of philosophy, continental philosophy, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of language, epistemology, the philosophy of science, social and political philosophy, American philosophy, feminist
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philosophy, African-American philosophy, the philosophy of race, and Indian philosophy. (Temple, 2009). Learning Goals There are five learning goals at the undergraduate level: 1. Students should obtain a broad understanding of the works of major philosophers within the Western tradition and American philosophy, and then focus on three philosophers in a detailed understanding that forms a basis for further study. 2. In order to better understand the historical roots of philosophy, students should obtain a broad understanding of the works of major philosophers within the history of philosophy, from Ancient to Medieval, Modern to Contemporary philosophy. 3. Students should know the differences and similarities between Continental and Analytic Philosophy, and gain a more thorough understanding and appreciation of the Continental tradition. 4. In it imperative that students be able to evaluate and criticize philosophical texts, as well as offer constructive discussion and criticism in order to become active learners and leaders. 5. Students should be able to transfer the critical thinking and analysis skills offered by a philosophy degree into a traditional workplace setting. It is this integration that will make philosophy students most valuable to employers. Assessment Plan In achieving these learning goals, it is very important that the department offers increasingly intellectually stimulating courses that provide students with an opportunity to focus
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in critical thinking skills and analysis, as well as opportunities to engage one another in a method of dialogue that cannot be embraced through reading and lectures alone. In exposing students to a broad array of philosophical texts, each student will gain an understanding as to where he or she would like to focus on areas within philosophy for further research in graduate study or to gain a broad understanding that can be used in the student’s chosen field of employment. In evaluating the goals, it is of the utmost importance to have a unity between administration, faculty and staff. The faculty is the foundation of the university, and with the assistance of staff, and oversight from administration, this assessment process should be an organized approach that is healthy for all involved. It is imperative that the faculty understand the need for assessment at a level higher than individual course evaluation, as this is a programwide initiative that is part of the university mission. We must view this as a part of a cohesive unit in order to maintain accreditation and further develop in rankings from peer review. It is known that learning takes place both inside and outside of the classroom. Students who are exposed to a variety of learning events will be better positioned for employment, graduate school, and to be leaders within the community. In an effort to uplift the human spirit, students need to engage and be engaged. The Department of Philosophy encourages students to take a wide variety of courses with the General Education program, and also become involved with community service endeavors. In support of the minor, students are able to select from a wide array of courses and engage philosophy majors while enhancing their own careers in their respective disciplines. In assessing the first learning goal, students will be required to take five courses: Philosophy East and West, American Thinkers, Introduction to Western Philosophy, Advanced Western Philosophy, and a Special Topics research course at the end of the freshman year that
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prepares the student for advanced study with a focus on three philosophers of the student’s choosing. Evaluation of the first goal will be through individual course achievement, and faculty will be encouraged to use a variety of methods, from multiple choice exams to essays, presentations to discussion points. However, the concern of this department is that learning has taken place, and this is best measured through the placement of different types of examinations and gauges of learning, rather than simply counting attendance points or having students memorize rote material. The courses are structured to be interactive learning experiences. Accordingly, these are the initial courses that will teach students how to read philosophical texts and what to get out of these texts, and thus this stage of the learning goals is the initial foundation for higher philosophical understanding and development. In assessing the second goal, students will take the following courses: Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, and Contemporary Philosophy. Evaluation of the second goal will also include mixed methods of examination, and satisfactory completion of these courses moves the student along to the upper level courses. In assessing the third goal, students will take a Special Topics course at the end of their sophomore year. In this course, the student will focus on one major Continental philosopher, and by building on the previous courses on Introduction to Western Philosophy and Advanced Western Philosophy, compare and contrast the theories and works of the philosopher with that of the Analytic tradition. This will complete advanced study on one of the three required philosophers. Evaluation of the third goal will take a large amount of faculty involvement. This will be the first major research-oriented analysis of a philosopher, and as it compares and contrasts the
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Continental and Analytic traditions, the course lays the foundation for further learning in the Continental approach. This course will be graded by a faculty member who will then have the paper reviewed by a faculty committee. The student must receive faculty committee approval in order to proceed. In assessing the fourth goal, students will take two courses: Critical Thinking and Dialogue and a junior-year Seminar course in which each student will select a Continental philosopher and will promote and defend the theories and writings of the philosopher while challenging the other students in a manner that promotes learning, leadership, argument, and engagement. This will complete advanced study of the second of three required philosophers. Evaluation of the fourth goal entails students discussing and forming arguments based on their readings. This method will also be faculty-intensive, with the Critical Thinking course taking place during the freshman year and the Seminar taking place in the junior year. Faculty are encouraged to push students further into critical thinking and encouraging the formulation of solid arguments. It will be required of students to complete an undergraduate thesis, which entails completion of the following courses: Thesis I and Thesis II. In the thesis, students will have an opportunity to work one on one with a faculty member and develop an argument based upon advanced study of the third and final philosopher of the student’s choosing. The thesis brings together all prior learning and allows the student to form an argument and support it. While a faculty member will work closely with the student and provide feedback, the first course results in a pass or fail grade, and the second course provides a culmination with the student defending the thesis in front of the faculty. At this point, students and faculty in such a small program should know each other, and constructive feedback is encouraged. Our goal is to
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educate leaders by challenging them. If the committee approves the thesis defense, then the student may apply for graduation, assuming that all other criteria have been met. In assessing the fifth goal, students will complete two six-month internships in order to use their skill set and identify their own strengths while promoting the discipline of philosophy and its relevance in the workplace. Students who are focused on graduate study will have the opportunity to complete a second thesis or take graduate-level philosophy courses that will also count toward the undergraduate major. In this sense, it is possible for a student to only complete one six-month internship, and then provide a second thesis or further prepare for graduate study. Evaluation of the fifth goal will come from employer feedback, but the feedback must be frequently sent to a faculty member assigned to the student who will monitor progress through the one or two internships. It is crucial that the faculty members know very quickly if the student is having a difficult time. Faculty and students will work with the career development center in order to be sure that students are prepared. Ultimately, students should be able to complete the program in five years, with the internship opportunities comprising an entire academic year. Yearly Assessment In order to remain in sync with the missions of both the department and the university, as well as to strive for continuous improvement, it is optimal to have a yearly assessment. Although the Office of Institutional Research will be heavily involved with the planning and assessment stages, it is here, at the yearly evaluation, where their impact will be most felt. First, the department will need to know the grades and passing ratios of the students. Also, there should be aggregate information on the internship scores. It would be best to have the most effective data possible without wasting much-needed time.
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A committee will be formed with members from the undergraduate program, from other areas of the Department of Philosophy, from within other areas of the university, including academic administrators, the Office of Institutional Research, and external reviewers – both academics and employers – who are knowledgeable of the program and its goals while not being biased nor presenting a conflict of interest. While the learning goals take a micro look at the program’s effectiveness, the annual committee review will see the macro level of the program’s placement in comparison to local and national peer groups. I would prefer to begin backwards, by first assessing the review of employers both on the skills sets of the students as well as the students’ ability to present themselves as important assets to the organization. Also, it would be important to view graduate level acceptance rates of students. From these two points, alone, a large amount of data could be gathered and a possible change of direction initiated. Internally, graduation rates and years to graduate will be measured. On the same level, student satisfaction must be measured through surveys, as input from the students is optimal. The faculty play a crucial role is letting administrators know whether a student is ready to move to the next level. Feedback compiled from employers and faculty, through surveys and direct interviews, should provide much-needed information for administrators to come together and create a comprehensive guideline of where students should be at each successive level toward graduation. In order to make the assessment plan an active process, it would be optimal to have a meeting each semester with the faculty to discuss ways to improve upon the process, from evaluation of individual courses to assisting individual students, to potential new course offerings that are in demand. Also, once a year just before the Fall semester, the faculty will meet with the dean in order to provide feedback on the prior year and the upcoming year. It will be
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here that the dean will present the findings of the previous year – that was been worked out over the summer – and present any changes to the curriculum or evaluation. It will be imperative to give the faculty time to make any adjustments in the courses, but the faculty should already be aware that they will not be simply teaching from the same notes over and over again. Most important, administrators must maintain the new level of changes and make sure that everyone is an active participant in the program. While changes are being made to the current curriculum, data is coming in to be measured for the next meeting, and thus we have a continuous cycle of gauging and improvement. With the assistance of the faculty and the Office of the Institutional Research, the assessment plan can be set into place immediately and data can begin to flow inward. As the assessment plan operation builds steam, more and more faculty will become fully on board and the use of more resources and university-wide assistance will be requested. However, it is important to not overwhelm each member of the process, and thus it is most beneficial to simply begin the process, keep track of data, maintain the process, work on the data, come to conclusions, present the conclusions, and then begin working on changes and further assessment. In this sense, faculty will become active participants while not being concurrently overwhelmed. We must remember that this assessment plan benefits the entire program and resides within the confines of the university mission. Once the assessment plan is in place, we will then know where we stand and where we need to be. It will be our job to figure out how to get there.
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References Gustavus Adolphus College, Department of Philosophy, (2009). Assessment plan. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from the Gustavus Adolphus College Web site: http://gustavus.edu/academics/philosophy/assessment.php Knight, W.E. (Ed.). (2003). The primer for institutional research. Tallahassee, FL: Association for Institutional Research. Suskie, L. (2004). Assessing student learning. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. Temple University, (2009). Graduate program in philosophy. Retrieved July 26, 2009, from the Temple University Department of Philosophy Web site: http://www.temple.edu/philosophy/Graduate/index.htm Temple University, (2009). Mission + history. Retrieved July 26, 2009, from the Temple University Web site: http://www.temple.edu/about/mission.htm Temple University, (2009). Programs. Retrieved July 26, 2009, from the Temple University Department of Philosophy Web site: http://www.temple.edu/philosophy/Programs/ University of California, Berkeley, Department of Philosophy, (2009). Undergraduate student learning goals. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from the University of California, Berkeley Web site: https://philosophy.berkeley.edu/page/21 University of Central Arkansas, Office of Academic Planning and Assessment, (2005). What must the assessment plan include? Retrieved August 1, 2009, from the University of Central Arkansas Web site: http://www.uca.edu/divisions/academic/assess/planpart.htm University of Missouri - St. Louis, Department of Philosophy, (2009). Our mission statement. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from the University of Missouri - St. Louis Web site: http://www.umsl.edu/~philo/
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