Department of Environmental, Population, and Organismic Biology
In some summaries of assessment activity, goals are referred to by number (e.g., K-2 is knowledge goal 2).
Outcomes Assessment in EPO Biology relies heavily on student comment. Since 1990-1991, exit surveys have been sent to all seniors. In addition to students' self ratings of their knowledge and skills, the survey obtains their views on the quality of advising, the program's academic rigor, the quality of instruction, and their overall reactions to the program, and solicited suggestions for improvement.
On the exit survey, students rate their knowledge and skills at or above 4 (very good) in nearly all areas. Highest scores are for knowledge of biodiversity, evolution, the scientific method, and the relevance to biology of chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Lowest scores (but still in the range "OK" to "good") are for cell biology, plant biology, and the development of biological thought. Students are asked to rate each of the skills areas in the department's goals statement on the basis of "importance after graduation" and "level of achievement now." Perhaps not surprisingly, students have consistently evaluated their achievement lower than their judgement of a particular skill's importance to future careers. I.e., students feel less well prepared than they would like to be.
The exit survey suggests that faculty advising continues to be an area in need of improvement, scoring only 2.9 on the 5-point scale in 1996-97 (down from 3.2 in 1995-96). Student comments indicate a need for more career guidance, and more active involvement in advising on the part of both faculty and students. Positive comments recognize several individual faculty or staff members, as well as departmental publications, for their contributions to the advising process. Substantive improvements in faculty advising will be instituted, as they are recommended by the department's 1996-97 formal Program Review.
The most frequent suggestion for improvement of the major continues to be smaller classes and more hands-on experience (laboratories, independent research, field trips, etc). These suggestions will be addressed in the next few years, since improvements in major requirements are explicit in departmental strategic planning and in the 1997 recommendations of the Program Review Panel. Improvements being considered include development of a majors' "core curriculum" and tracks toward specialization within the major.
Comments by seniors on specific courses and individual faculty performance are of value to particular faculty members and are furnished annually to the Chair. General results of the survey and this outcomes assessment report are provided to all faculty.
Educational Testing Service furnishes departmental summary reports of GRE scores. The report for 1994-95 is the latest available. These reports are of only moderate value for purposes of departmental outcomes assessment, as one cannot always identify the actual department of the examinee. Further, national results are reported as means but local results are reported as medians. However, the following data are at least suggestive. For all examinees from CU-Boulder, regardless of department, mean scores on the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytic examinations were 503, 605, and 605, respectively. Comparable scores for CU-Boulder biology students (which probably are mostly EPOB students, as "Cell and Molecular Biology" and "Biochemistry" are reported separately) were 510, 583, and 604 respectively. Comparable scores for all "biology" examinees nationwide were 492, 575, and 586. That is, EPOB students do about as well as students from other CU-Boulder departments on the general GRE examinations and they do somewhat better than the national average. The overall median of 15 CU-Boulder students on the biology test was 630. The national mean was 625. Assuming a normal distribution of scores nationally, mean and median would be the same, and CU-Boulder students score slightly above that mark.
Internal and external review teams for the Department's 1996-97 Program Review praised the quality of the undergraduate experience in EPOB, despite the large numbers of majors, citing especially the commitment to teaching of numerous individual faculty members. Further, students' self-assessment of their experience and accomplishments continues too be rather high. Advising continues to need more attention by both faculty and students. Perhaps more emphasis on smaller classes at the advanced level--where there is a greater emphasis on individual instructor-student contact--will bridge this gap. In addition, it is apparent that the level of rigor and standards set for individual courses in the department varies considerably. Some attempt to adopt more uniform standards would improve the quality of teaching. Each of these areas should see improvement with changes in departmental advising and development of a core curriculum for majors.
The Department plans to continue to improve the exit survey and strategies are needed to improve participation by students. Further, the feasibility of a longitudinal scheme for pre- and post-testing of students' knowledge and skills will continue to be explored. Results of outcomes assessment to date suggest the importance of the process to students and to faculty development, so efforts will be made to extend and coordinate the process.
Last revision 01/03/05
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