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American Studies Program
Last updated prior to August 1998

Knowledge and skill goals for this undergraduate degree program are recorded in the most recent CU-Boulder catalog.

In some summaries of assessment activity, goals are referred to by number (e.g., K-2 is knowledge goal 2).

American Studies faculty evaluate research papers and projects from senior capstone courses AMST 4500/4950 and AMST 4960, the two terms of required seminar work for majors. The evaluators for each course are faculty other than the course instructors. Criteria for specific knowledge and skill goals were developed by a faculty committee. While majors take a variety of courses, the senior seminars are usually the only courses that consist primarily ofAmerican Studies majors. Since outcomes assessments focus on how well students have "learned" during their CU years, the faculty believe reliance on these senior seminar papers remains a valid means of assessment. 

In general, the program's seniors successfully relate their research topics to the broad patterns and themes in American cultural history and their formal research papers are, on the whole, very well-written. (The instructors pay special attention to students' communication skills, with several private consultations between the instructor and each student during which paper drafts are reviewed and suggestions made). 

The early assessments indicated that additional training in interdisciplinary focus and analytic and research skills would be helpful. As the program's courses gave more emphasis to these abilities, the evaluators saw fewer problems in these areas and now report, for example, that students in both courses show solid interdisciplinary research skills and critical analysis, with good use of primary materials and secondary sources. The 1996-97 assessment illustrates these conclusions: 

  • American Studies majors have a broad grasp of U.S. cultural history, of the significant events, peoples, ideas, and products relevent to the field and study of American Studies, and particularly of the methods and theories necessary to understanding and articulating U.S. cultural history in written form.
  • American Studies majors successfully encompass the methods and approaches of diverse academic disciplines in their writing and critical thinking, demonstrating that American Studies is among the most interdisciplinary of fields.
  • American Studies majors attend to and indeed have an excellent understanding of comparisons and contrasts between Western American and Non-Western themes and areas. All American Studies majors must take at least one course in non-Western areas, thus acquiring comparative knowledge of non-American cultures.
  • American Studies majors demonstrate good research skills, good critical thinking skills, and excellent writing skills. The argument of each paper examined was clearly articulated and concluded, with sophisticated attention to academic style. The students have a good understanding of how to develop a cogent and grammatically correct paper: the papers were exceedingly well-written, show excellent attention to writing flow and style, and generally end on notes of inquiry, as if to suggest that we, the readers, will want to pursue further study and analysis of the selected topic.

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