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Department of Theatre and Dance
Graduate Outcomes Assessment Report
AY 2000-2001 and 2001-2002

In August 2000, Director of Graduate Studies Jim Symons submitted a report to Graduate School Deans Lynch and Taylor summarizing the department's graduate student exit surveys. This report by Chair Oliver Gerland covers the period between Fall 2000 and Spring 2002. It includes an analysis of the exit surveys as well as information about other assessment means.

OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT PLAN

Diagnostic Examinations
Dance MFA students take a three hour diagnostic exam before the beginning of their first semester; this exam is reviewed by the student's faculty advisor who discusses the results with the student. Completion of the MFA degree requires a written examination that includes questions not answered correctly on the diagnostic. Theatre MA and PhD students also take three hour diagnostic examinations before the start of their first semester (different tests for students in the different programs). These are reviewed by faculty advisors who meet with individual students to discuss the results. In order to complete their degree, MA students take an examination covering their coursework and the diagnostic. The comprehensive examination taken by PhD students (in the third year of the program) typically includes questions missed on the diagnostic.

Exit Interviews and Exit Surveys
All students (theatre and dance, undergraduate and graduate) are encouraged to meet with the Chair or Associate Chairs for exit interviews during which they respond to a standard set of questions about their academic and production experiences. In addition, graduate students complete a three page written survey in which they evaluate their experience within the department. (A similar survey is completed and sent to the Graduate School). The Chair and Associate Chairs (for Undergraduate and Graduate Studies) annually review these exit interviews and exit surveys.

OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT RESULTS

Diagnostic Examinations
Diagnostic exams are used by faculty to determine if graduate students require remedial (undergraduate) classes. No graduate students during the period in question were required to attend remedial classes, though several were encouraged to do so. The faculty believes that the final exams taken by master's students and the comprehensive exams taken by doctoral students are adequate--in the PhD case, exhaustive--complements to the diagnostic.

Exit Interviews and Exit Surveys
From Fall 2000 to Spring 2002, the department graduated 7 theatre MA students, 7 dance MFA students and 12 theatre PhD students. We have exit interviews from 1 theatre MA, 4 dance MFAs and 3 theatre PhDs (an average response rate of 30%). In addition, we have graduate exit surveys from 9 graduates (not identified by degree program) for an average response rate of 35%.

Several important curricular changes have been made during the 2000-02 period, in part in response to concerns expressed in these and earlier exit interviews and surveys:

  • Dance graduates expressed concern about the "Music for Dancers" curriculum which they felt to be redundant and poorly taught. The dance faculty has restructured the curriculum and hired a new faculty member to teach the courses.
  • Theatre and Dance students alike would like to see more interaction between the two divisions. Increased theatre and dance cooperation was called for in the most recent PRP report, and the exit interviews underscore the importance of this goal. Recent curriculum responses include the development of a graduate-level course called "Design for Dancers" co-taught by theatre costume design faculty member Janice Benning and dance faculty members David Capps and Bob Shannon. This course was first taught Fall 2001 with theatre and dance graduate students enrolled.
  • Exit surveys point to the need for increased technological support and training. The dance division has developed a new course taught by a regular faculty member entitled "Performance Media Technology" to address this concern.
  • Theatre graduate students especially wish there could be more production opportunities, particularly as directors. Lack of supervised production opportunities is a problem the faculty (theatre and dance alike) continues to struggle to solve in an era of shrinking resources.

Other Outcomes Assessment Tools
Placement of graduates is perhaps the most important measure of our graduate programs' effectiveness. Since 1997, 23 PhDs have graduated from the theatre doctoral program. Of these, 15 have gone on to full-time academic appointments: a 65% placement rate. Others are working part-time in academe and/or with theatre production companies. MFA dance graduates over the same time period (1997-2002) hold a variety of positions, reflecting the diversity of professional pathways available in the field. Six MFA graduates have gone into full-time academic positions and others hold part-time teaching positions in universities and colleges. Others have gone on to found or join professional dance companies. Several others are in full-time practice as body therapists (i.e. teaching/practicing systems of movement like Pilates or the Alexander Technique).

OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT FUTURE

It is clear that the department must do a better job of securing graduate student assessments of the program, either through exit interviews or exit surveys. These are an excellent way to glean student concerns but the response rate of 30% to 35% must be improved. As well, there are specific concerns voiced by graduates that have not been addressed by recent curricular changes. For example, some feel ill-prepared to enter the professional and academic worlds, identifying the need for a "professional orientation" course in which grant-writing (among other things) would be taught. The department is exploring the possibility of an MA/MBA degree in Theatre Management which may help to address this concern. Finally, the faculty believes that the rigorous comprehensive/ final examination system currently in place ensures that graduates gain knowledge about the history, theory and practice of their respective fields appropriate for entry-level academic positions.

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Last revision 01/23/03


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