Department of Linguistics
In some summaries of assessment activity, goals are referred to by number (e.g., K-2 is knowledge goal 2).
From 1989-90 through 1992-93 the department evaluated various knowledge goals, and skills goal S-2, with questions embedded in the final exams of advanced courses. The questions were designed and graded by faculty members other than the course instructor. They were purposely designed to vary from moderately demanding to demanding, and the 1989-90 report noted, "Thus we would only expect our very best students to respond satisfactorily to all the questions." Starting in 1993-94, several knowledge goals and goal S-2 were assessed by having a faculty member other than the instructor independently examine students' answers on the final exam of a required senior-level course.
From 1989-90 through 1991-92, students' performance on goal S-1 (proficiency in a second language) was evaluated by faculty members teaching the languages each year's students had selected. The students' performance was judged according to ACTFL standards, which are objective and nationally normed. The department's expects its students to achieve at least high intermediate proficiency in at least three of these skills in their selected language: speaking, reading, listening, and writing.
Most students' performance on the embedded questions each year was judged satisfactory. The 1989-90 report noted that students still tended to regard their own language as the primary model for all languages, and speculated how the department might address a broader sense of language structure.
Similarly, most students each year surpassed the "high intermediate" language-proficiency standard handily.
There have been some changes in the program's structure and goals as a result of recent formal program review. The assessment goals and procedures will be revised as appropriate. The faculty would like to include assessment of broader issues which are difficult to evaluate with the focused questions used so far. The 1995-96 assessment added a questionnaire mailed to the four graduating seniors. The questionnaire included a request for a short essay on a core issue in the field. Unfortunately, the students did not take the questionnaire as seriously as they do the embedded questions.
The outcomes assessment procedure used in 1996-97 was the same as in most preceding years--a challenging problem placed on the Phonology final--since the 1995-96 attempt to replace it with a questionnaire was not a success (only 2 of 4 graduating seniors responded). Phonology may be taken in the second semester of either the junior or the senior year; it is the second course of a 2-semester sequence, and no course follows it.
Three of the 5 undergraduates taking the exam got the question right--a higher proportion of correct answers than was obtained by the M.A. students taking the same exam, incidentally--and two did poorly.
In 1997-98, the outcomes assessment procedure was changed slightly; rather than using a single challenging problem on the Phonology final, the entire final exam was reviewed by a senior professor in the department who was not the instructor for the class.
The exam consisted of two parts, a take-home and in-class exam, and the questions posed addressed basic issues in theory, as well as elementary analytical issues. For example, students were asked about such fundamental issues as distinctive features, predictable vs. non-predictable features, phonemes vs. allophones, and about the main claims and mechanical devices used to illustrate autosegmental, lexical, and optimality-theoretical phonology. While not every student answered every question well or even correctly, at least some students gave a correct answer to each question, implying that the material was taught in such a way that at least someone understood it. Overall, the professor who read the exams concluded that the students have come to a good understanding of both the abstract and practical aspects of phonological analysis, and have grasped the principals of modern phonological theory; thus, they understand an important piece of the architecture of language.
The structure of our major does not permit us to assess outcomes in a more satisfactory way. Possibly we will be able to institute a 1-credit major seminar in the future and use that as a vehicle for assessment.
Last revision 07/12/02
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