Department of History
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).
Outcomes assessment report, 2000-2002
In 2000-01 and 2001-02, the Undergraduate Studies Committee reviewed 18% of all seminar papers (15 of 95 in 2000-01; 18 of 90 in 2001-02). Two faculty members of the Undergraduate Studies Committee read each paper. As in previous years, each paper was evaluated in relation to five skills categories and were given an overall score as well. These skill areas and overall score were evaluated on a scale of 0 to 2, in which 1 was satisfactory - that is, demonstrating basic mastery of the skill evaluated. In contrast to previous years, differences between evaluators of more than 0.5 were not sent to a third evaluator; nearly all papers differed by this much in at least one category. Moreover, in the Overall category such differences were less common; eleven differed by 0.5 or more; of these, only four showed scores differing by 1.0 or more.
Because of the small sample size (15 papers in 2000-01; 18 papers in 2001-02), and because of increased number of papers crossing geographic boundaries, the practice of dividing up papers by geographic focus (US, Europe, World) was discontinued, as was the practice of dividing up papers by type of instructor. Some disparities were noted between American History papers and others in the 1998 survey (though while American history papers fared worse in 1998, they ranked above the other categories in 1997); a cursory review of results in 2000-01 and 2001-02 does not bear out this concern. Again, however, the sample size was sufficiently small (in 2000-01, 9 American history papers and 6 other; in 2001-02, 8 American history and 10 other) that one very bad (or good) paper was likely to skew the results. The committee thus focused on the results related to the department's skill goals.
The average scores for the 2000-01 and 2001-02 samples were as follows:
(Note, again, that the Overall score is not derived as an average, but is assigned independently, in the same fashion as each subscore.)
Of the 33 papers, fourteen received an overall score below 1.0; most of these were in the range of 0.8-0.95, with three rated at 0.5 or below. Only seven papers, meanwhile, were rated at 1.5 or above. These results suggest there is no tendency on the part of evaluators toward inflating scores.
Examining these results, it should be emphasized that the overall evaluation in each category was satisfactory or above. There are only two inconsistencies of note in these results: in 2000-01, papers were evaluated low in the 'evidence' category, while in 2001-02, papers were evaluated low in the historiography category. These categories are linked, as they both refer to the student's ability to locate, organize, and evaluate sources. As these skills are central to the practice of history, close attention should be paid to subsequent evaluations, in order to determine whether this is in fact a trend.
The History Honors program continues to be one of the department's greatest sources of pride. In the last two years, eighteen of our majors have written honors theses in the department. All of them begin with a semester-long seminar, HIST 3110, which explores research methods, questions of historiography, and approaches to developing an argument. In the second semester, students work with a primary advisor to develop the thesis. These outstanding students have combined original research in primary sources with the creation of substantial arguments about their chosen area of focus. Several of these students have collected primary sources in languages other than English, in some cases traveling to archives outside of the United States to do so. That so many students are able to produce serious historical writing at the end of their undergraduate careers is further evidence that the department is succeeding in its basic goals.
Last revision 01/28/03
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