Initial Publication Date: February 13, 2009

Assessment at Humboldt State University, Department of Geology

Mark Hemphill-Haley, Department of Geology, Humboldt State University

We are in the early stages of developing a formal assessment process. We conducted a Program Review in 2004 (Microsoft Word 1005kB Feb12 09). Prior to our most recent program review, the department had no formal assessment statement or plan. We have conducted end of semester student-assessed instructor evaluations for many years but had no formal statement of program or student assessment. During the program review we developed a department mission statement and eight outcome goals. We are currently assessing each goal each year. In addition, we developed a graduate survey to assess whether our alumni were succeeding in the workforce or graduate school. We used the AGI statistical standards as the target level to exceed. Finally, we have identified our field camp as the capstone course to assess our student's technical competence in geology. Additionally, at the university-level, a voluntary mid-semester evaluation program is available to all instructors.

We rely strongly on certain aspects of assessment, in particular our surveys of alumni and their employers, to determine how effective our program is toward meeting the needs of both the profession and our graduates. In light of the current tight fiscal environment, this information is important in helping us justify the strongest parts of our program which consist largely of high cost field experiences. We also rely on the end of semester evaluations of teaching to make adjustments to individual courses.

Currently the university is going through reaccredidation review by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). We are required by our university to define a mission and goals for all aspects of the curriculum including majors and general education. Much of our assessment activity has been driven by the WASC reaccredidation requirements.

We are still relatively new to formal assessment and are still in the process of identifying obstacles. To date, the two largest obstacles have been the lack of a good template to develop our assessment protocol and a less than enthusiastic response from our faculty about involvement in the assessment process. This is compounded by confusion, at the University level, as to how the assessments will be used. There is a sense among many faculty, and staff, that the assessment is just another paper work requirement that will ultimately not provide demonstrable, useful results.

To date, our first year assessment product, the alumni survey, has provided us with encouraging information about the success of the department in providing strong geology educations for our students. We have a collegial faculty and staff who, although, not wildly enthusiastic about the assessment process, are committed to the best interests of our students and program.