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Majors & Minors - Political Science Outcomes Assessment Plan

Political Science is a diverse discipline that includes four generally recognized sub-fields: American Politics, Political Theory, Comparative Politics, and International Relations. Two majors are offered by the Department of Political Science: the political science major and the international affairs-political science major. The latter major allows close ties with the other participating departments in the International Affairs Program: Modern Languages and Classics, History, Anthropology, and Economics. Additionally, the Department, particularly through the joint appointment of one of its faculty, has close ties with the Canadian-American Center.

The following document adds to the department’s already existing efforts to assess outcomes. Students who receive their degree in either Political Science or International Affairs-Political Science should master a number of broad categories of knowledge and technical skills.

I. Learning Objectives

  • Disciplinary knowledge: Students should have a general understanding of the principal theories that have shaped the discipline. They should be cognizant of the current state of the disciplinary debate on these theories, and they should be aware of countervailing viewpoints. Students should be aware of the policy and ethical consequences of various theoretical perspectives.
  • Analytical skills/Critical thinking: Students should be able to access a broad range of research material in their field, including both primary and secondary sources. Students should be able to read and critically evaluate literature central to their discipline. Students must demonstrate the ability to write, discuss, and defend a research project in their field based on these research materials.
  • Technical and applied skills: Students should develop good written and verbal skills. They should be able to conduct research consistent with the practices of the discipline. They should be able to access and use web-based information. They should have familiarity with the disciplinary concepts and vocabulary employed by political scientists.

II. Assessment Instruments. The assessment plan will use three methods of evaluation.

  • Capstone Course writing sample. A representative sample of the capstone seminar papers of all POS seniors enrolled in the seminar will be submitted to both the capstone instructor and one other faculty member in Political Science for evaluation (normally, this other faculty member will be the department chairman, unless, he or she is offering a capstone seminar). This representative sample will be scored on a simple three-point scale, with three representing good, two representing acceptable, and one representing unacceptable. Scores will be awarded on five criteria:
    • Grammar and writing style
    • Ability to present a thesis statement
    • Coherence and logic of the argument
    • Familiarity with and use of secondary literature; where appropriate, familiarity with and use of primary sources
    • Proper  use of citations

The overall rating will be the sum of the scores for the five criteria. Our goal is that no student will have an “unacceptable” score in any of the five categories.

  • Exit Survey. All POS students enrolled in Senior Capstone Seminar will be administered an exit survey, whose intent is to assess student perceptions of the overall learning experience. The exit survey will be mandatory; subsequent to our trial period, students will be advised in course syllabi that this will be a requirement. Results from the exit survey will generate both quantifiable data and qualitative comments and suggestions.

Political Science Program Assessment:

A. Please check the response with which you most agree.

1. My coursework in political science provided a logical, complete, and appropriate course of instruction.

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

2. I was satisfied with the quality of my political science instruction.

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

3. I received enough personal interaction with the political science faculty, including advising.

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

4. I felt like I belonged to a community of Political Science majors. That is, I had the chance to interact with my fellow majors, including but not limited to student organizations.

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

5. The political science major improved my writing skills

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

6. The political science major improved my analytical skills

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

7. The political science major improved my research skills

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

8. Political science training will further my career goals

__Strongly Agree __Agree __Neutral __Disagree __Strongly disagree

B. Please briefly respond to the following:

1. What was the intellectual highlight of the major?

2. What was your favorite course, and why?

3. What was the greatest strength of the program?

4. What was the greatest weakness of the program?

  • Alumni Survey

Each year the Department of Political Science distributes a newsletter to its alumni, and we know that we have the institutional resources to contact our graduates with relative ease. Former students will be surveyed in the third, fifth, and tenth years following graduation, and we propose to use an instrument similar to the one just discussed, particularly in “A”. Additionally, instead of part “B” of the survey immediately above, we will ask alumni the following “qualitative” questions:

  • What are your current professional pursuits?
  • How well did your Political Science major prepare you for them?
  • Have your career plans changed since graduation? If so, how and why?
  • Has your assessment of the department changed since you graduated? If so, how and why?
  • What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were here?
  • Based on these questions, what might the department do differently in the future?

III. Feedback from Assessment Results

The assessment instruments described above seek to examine the skills students derive from the program, their satisfaction with their program of study, and the degree to which the program serves our students in the long term.

The department chair will be responsible for coordinating with the instructors of POS 499 to insure that the questionnaire and the assessment of the capstone paper are completed. The department chair will also be responsible for maintaining the quantitative data returned from the assessment questionnaire, along with a log of written comments and suggestions received from the qualitative portions of the survey. We expect that it may take time for a meaningful body of data can be accumulated. As the body of data does accumulate, it will be presented at least once per year to the faculty in a regular department meeting, so that any potential or actual program weaknesses or other concerns, along with potential remedial actions to deal with them, can be addressed


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