Map A to Z Index Search CU Home University of Colorado
  Strategic Planning Institutional Research and Analysis Campus Budget and Finances About PBA

PBA Home > Institutional Research & Analysis > Outcomes Assessment > Unit Summaries > Department of Anthropology

Department of Anthropology
Last updated 10/03/2002

Knowledge and skill goalsfor 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).

Assessment activity for 2001-02
Assessment activity for 1999-00
Assessment activity through 1997-98

Assessment activity for 2001-02

The Procedures

The first stated goal of the undergraduate anthropology program appearing in the most recent CU-Boulder catalog reads as follows: "The undergraduate degree in anthropology emphasizes knowledge and awareness of basic methods, concepts, alternative theories and approaches, and modes of explanation appropriate to each of the three main subfields of the discipline (archaeology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology)."

In late 2001 the faculty decided to conduct two separate assessment procedures during the Spring semester, 2002, to test how well the department was meeting the aforementioned goal. The 1st procedure entailed a "before/after" test in a large introductory course in Biological Anthropology which was designed to evaluate that course's effectiveness in introducing students to basic concepts; the 2nd procedure entailed a more subjective-type evaluation of an upper-division small-enrollment course in Cultural Anthropology that emphasizes alternative theories and approaches, and modes of explanation.

1st procedure: the questions listed below were administered in one section of Anthropology 2020, Introduction to Anthropology, a large-enrollment lower-division undergraduate course during the Spring semester, 2002, as part of an attempt to evaluate the course effectiveness in introducing students to the basics of human genetics, population genetics and modern human biological diversity. These questions were intended to be part of a straight-forward and informative method of assessing whether students were learning the basic principles of the course. The questions were administered on the first exam and then again on the last.

1. The unit of evolution is the:
    d. population
Before % correct=24%
After % correct=71%
2. If the SRY gene on the Y chromosome is activated then the offspring will be:
    a. healthy male
Before % correct=21%
After % correct=64%
3. Which of the following is true about "race":
    b. the concept has no biological validity
Before % correct=48%
After % correct=93%
4. Obesity in the US is not randomly distributed because:
    c. A and B
Before % correct=33%
After % correct=57%
5. Clones are:
    b. genetically identical but not always phenotypically identical
Before % correct=28%
After % correct=65%
6. Without natural selection, recessive alleles are eventually "flushed" from a population
    b. False
Before % correct=67%
After % correct=62%
7. Humans with dark-colored skin have the same number of pigment cells as humans with light-colored skin.
    a. True
Before % correct=44%
After % correct=85%
8. mtDNA "Eve" is not the mother of us all but only the mother of our mtDNA
    a. True
Before % correct=64%
After % correct=90%
9. Throughout human history, germs have probably killed more people than guns
    a. True
Before % correct=73%
After % correct=93%
10. A single DNA nucleotide consists of a base, a sugar and a phosphate group
    a. True
Before % correct=73%
After % correct=93%

Results of 1st procedure: Overall the course was successful in providing students knowledge regarding the basic concepts and primary themes it covered. Students improved on 8 out of 10 questions. The average improvement on questions answered correctly was 28%. The range of improvement was from 5% - 45%. In summary the percent of questions showing improvement was 80%, the average percent of improvement was 28%, and the range of improvement among all questions was 5% - 45%.

Conclusions regarding 1st procedure: Results show that questions demonstrating a final performance score below 85% are primarily concepts in human genetics and human population genetics. Adjustments can be made in the course with an eye towards improvement in these conceptually difficult areas.

2nd Procedure: Anthropology 4530, Theoretical Foundations of Sociocultural Anthropology, an upper-division small-enrollment course in Cultural Anthropology, was selected for this procedure. The students in the course were required to write several one-page essays, and one of these assignments was selected to be evaluated by 4 of the Cultural Anthropology faculty in the department. Eight one-page essays written by Anthropology majors (constituting all the majors enrolled in the course) were evaluated by the 4 participating Cultural Anthropology faculty, who were charged with evaluating these essays with regard to "whether the department's advanced (Junior/Senior) undergraduate majors showed significant learning and improvement in academic skills compared with the department's lower-division (Freshman/Sophomore) ones."

Before copying and distributing these 8 one-page essays to the 4 Cultural Anthropology faculty members, the department's Curriculum Committee Chair replaced the student authors' names with numbers, and subsequently neither the resulting evaluations nor the CC Chair's summary were shared with the professor who was teaching the course. Moreover, the 4 evaluators were instructed not to write their names on their evaluation sheets so that the CC Chair who summarized them would not know whose evaluations he was reading.

The evaluators were required to complete their evaluations on an evaluation sheet, which is copied immediately below.




Student # _____

  1. Numerical score ________

    Note: please award a numerical score between 0 and 100, with 75 being the score you would expect an average lower-division (Freshman or Sophomore) undergraduate Anthropology major to make on this particular assignment in this particular course.

  2. Qualitative evaluation:

    Note: please write a brief (not more than 2 or 3 sentences) qualitative evaluation of the essay, stating whether the author's ability to learn, think critically, and prepare this written assignment corresponded with a level of performance that was less, about the same, or greater than what one would expect from an average lower-division undergraduate anthropology major.


Contextual information for evaluators:

The assignment was in the part of McGilvray's course titled, "Language and Codes: Saussure." The students were asked to prepare a one-page essay answering the following question: "In what ways does Levi-Strauss' structuralism incorporate the ideas and methods of Ferdinand de Saussure?"

The students were required to read Culler, Ferdinand de Saussure (whole book), as well as a selection in Lemert, ed., Social Theory: Saussure (160-169) 148-156. After that they were assigned to read in Social Theory: Levi-Strauss (334-339) 309-314, Levi-Strauss, Myth and Meaning, and in a Xeroxed reader, Leach, "British Social Anthropology and Levi-Straussian Structuralism," and Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, "The Cerebral Savage" 345-359.

McGilvray also met with the Curriculum Committee and stated he was fairly certain that none of the students in the course had heard of Ferdinand de Saussure prior to beginning the course. On the other hand, he said, some may have encountered Levi-Strauss in our "Frontiers" course, and/or in English or Linguistics courses as well.


Results of 2nd procedure: (from the Curriculum Committee Chair's Summary).

  1. The numerical scores:
      Average of numerical
    Student #1: 82.5 80 - 85
    Student #2 97 93 - 100
    Student #3 91.75 87 - 95
    Student #4 89 85 - 93
    Student #5 91.25 88 - 97
    Student #6 82.5 80 - 85
    Student #7 89.5 85 - 95
    Student #8 90.75 85 - 95
    Overall, all 8 students 89.28 80 - 100

    *Total possible range was 0 to 100 with evaluators instructed to consider 75 the score they would expect an average lower-division (Freshman or Sophomore) undergraduate Anthropology major to make on this particular assignment in this particular course. The relatively narrow range of numerical scores reflects the relatively high degree of uniformity among the 4 evaluators' independently-made evaluations.

  2. The qualitative evaluations:

    The more qualitative prose-form evaluations closely corresponded with the numerical scores. All 4 evaluators thought that every paper they evaluated was at a higher level of sophistication than they would associate with an average lower-division undergraduate Anthropology major, and in many cases they felt that the essay they evaluated showed capability for understanding complex theoretical matters and eligibility for advanced graduate work.

Conclusions regarding 2nd procedure: The results of the 2nd procedure strongly suggest that advanced upper-division (Junior and Senior) anthropology majors have progressed academically and intellectually well beyond typical levels for these factors among their counterparts in the Freshman and Sophomore ranks. Among the 8 papers evaluated, all were considered to exceed normal expectations for a typical lower-division student. That, the overall uniformity of the evaluator's evaluations, and the relatively narrow range associated with each evaluation, support our conclusion that undergraduate majors taking this course reflect significant academic and intellectual growth.

Overall conclusions regarding the department's outcomes-assessment exercise this year: Overall, the department was pleased with the result of this year's outcomes assessment exercise. Through our selection of diverse courses to test as well as the selection of diverse testing procedures, we were able to get a broader view of the impact of our curriculum on our undergraduate students than we had achieved in our outcome-assessment exercises in previous years. Regarding the diversity of the two courses selected, one was a lower-division science oriented course, whereas the other was an upper-division humanities oriented one. And, regarding the diversity of our test procedures, we employed both rigorous "before/after" objective procedures as well as more qualitative assessments.

Both procedures yielded convincing evidence that our undergraduate students at all levels are making significant progress in terms of theiroverall knowledge and academic and intellectual skills.

Return to the index of unit summaries


Last revision 01/28/03

PBA Home  |   Strategic Planning  |   Institutional Research & Analysis |  Budget & Finances  | 
Questions? Comments? |  Legal & Trademarks |  Privacy
15 UCB, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0015, (303)492-8631
  © Regents of the University of Colorado