Outcomes Assessment in the Earth and Environmental Science Department of C.W. Post College of Long Island University

Margaret F. Boorstein, Department of Earth and Environmental Science, C.W. Post College of Long Island University

Our department serves majors in geography, geology, earth system science, and environmental science. We also provide the academic content for early and adolescence education students. Our graduate programs are a master's in adolescence education in earth science and a master's degree in earth science. A significant department responsibility is serving students who are fulfilling core requirements in laboratory science (earth science or geology) and in social science (geography).

Our early discussions of outcomes assessment involved questions of the rationale as well as concerns about extra work for faculty. Faculty were reluctant. But, nevertheless, in Fall 2005, we agreed on a theme: graph and diagram interpretation. Then we decided on a fact-finding expedition. We gave all our classes a pre-test with two parts, first asking students for their own perceptions of their skills and then a series of questions. At the end of the semester we gave a post-test, again asking for student perceptions and including a short quiz. Student results were good, and we are expanding our work to see how graph and diagram interpretation can improve student learning in our major course of study and in the liberal arts in general.

We had a series of discussions in which we gradually hammered out some department and content-specific goals and outcomes and outcomes measures in Spring 2007. In doing so we looked at what other geography and geology departments had done. We read literature produced by our professional organizations. We thought about our students and integrated the global perspective with that of our own department. Our goals and outcomes are included in our plan which is a separate document.


Trivialization concerns:

Our challenges include balancing our overall goals with the choice of measures. Faculty were particularly concerned about trivializing our learning. We discussed and debated in person and through e-mails, trying to reach logical bases for matching our goals with our measures.

Adjunct faculty:

Many sections of our introductory courses are taught by adjunct faculty. We have included them in discussions of approaches to be applied. They have been extremely cooperative in applying our measures in their teaching and examinations.

Preparation of our students:

As with many institutions across the country, some students at CW Post may benefit from additional support in such areas as quantitative reasoning. We have built those needs into our setting of goals and measures, trying not to diminish overall learning.

Developing a mission statement:

At this time, we have decided to use the mission statement for the whole C.W. Post Campus. We have limited time and felt that our meetings and time would be better spent not debating the wording of a department mission statement. We know that is something we have to address and will, but not right now. We look forward to hearing from other departments.