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Women's Studies Program
Last updated 1/24/2003

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).

Assessment in 2001-2002
Assessment in 1998-1999
Assessment prior to 1998

Assessment in 2001-2002

Method of Assessment:

Ten seniors, nine of whom graduated during May 2002, were enrolled in the capstone seminar taught by Janet Jacobs during Spring 2002. All students were required to complete three written essays on the following topics: 1. gender and spiritual resistance; 2. gender and social resistance; 3. the most effective text read during their Women's Studies education. Professor Nina Molinaro (Interim Director) and Professor Janet Jacobs (course instructor) constituted the Outcomes Assessment Committee and, in that capacity, both faculty members read all three papers by the ten students.

As is obvious from the breadth of the three topics, the essays explored a multitude of texts and experiences. The committee members chose to use as their assessment measures three of the five stated knowledge goals and three of the four skills objectives (see p. 136 of The University of Colorado at Boulder Catalog 2001-02, or click the link in the first paragraph at the top of this page for the on-line catalog), and the committee rated each item on a 3 point scale of "excellent," "acceptable," or "poor." The goals selected for evaluation were:

Knowledge goals:

  1. Knowledge of gender in national and global contexts
  2. Knowledge of women's participation in, contribution to, and transformation of areas of social life including culture, society, politics, economy and religion
  3. Knowledge of institutionalized discrimination and violence against women

Skills objectives:

  1. Ability to express ideas clearly in spoken form
  2. 2. Ability to analyze texts and information critically
  3. 3. Ability to articulate clearly complex ideas in written form

Results:

  Excellent Acceptable Poor
Knowledge goal #1 4 5 1
Knowledge goal #2 5 5  
Knowledge goal #3 5 5  
Skills goal #1 4 5 1
Skills goal #2 5 5  
Skills goal #3 4 5 1

Discussion:

Because five of the ten permanent Women's Studies faculty were on research, personal or administrative leaves during AY 2001-2002, the remaining faculty felt it inappropriate to discuss the possibility of developing a more focused assessment instrument without input from their colleagues. As a result, the Outcomes Assessment Committee used the process already in place.

The results corroborate the fact that Women's Studies majors are, for the most part, effectively satisfying or exceeding both the knowledge goals and the skills goals associated with the Women's Studies major. The Outcomes Assessment Committee suggests that the full faculty of WMST re-examine the current assessment process in order to insure that it appropriately and adequately measures the knowledge goals and skills goals for the WMST majors.


Assessment in 1998-1999

Method of assessment

All fourteen graduating seniors enrolled in the capstone seminar were asked to write a final paper reflective of the knowledge and skills they had acquired over the course of their studies as Women’s Studies majors. Each of the papers was assessed by a committee of Women’s Studies faculty. The committee consisted of Alison M. Jaggar (chair), Kamala Kempadoo and Anne Marie Pois.

Although the papers covered a wide variety of topics, each was assessed by reference to three knowledge goals and three skills objectives, chosen from a full list containing five knowledge goals and five skills objectives. The knowledge goals chosen were as follows: knowledge of gender in national and global contexts; knowledge of women’s participation in, contribution to, and transformation of areas of social life including culture, society, politics, economy and religion; knowledge of institutionalized discrimination and violence against women. The skills objectives chosen were the following: the ability to express ideas clearly in spoken form; the ability to analyze texts and information critically; the ability to articulate clearly complex ideas in written form. Students’ success in meeting the first skills objective could be assessed only by the instructor of the capstone seminar, Alison Jaggar, but the whole committee assessed students’ success in meeting the remaining two skills objectives and all the knowledge objectives. Each question was rated on a 3-point scale of "excellent," "acceptable" or "poor."

Results

  Excellent Acceptable Poor
Knowledge of gender in national and global contexts 3 9 2
Knowledge of women’s participation in, contribution to, and transformation of areas of social life including culture, society, politics, economy and religion 7 7  
Knowledge of institutionalized discrimination and violence against women 7 6 1
The ability to express ideas clearly in spoken form 9 5  
The ability to analyze texts and information critically 6 8  
The ability to articulate clearly complex ideas in written form 8 4 2

Discussion

The results emerge from a thorough assessment by reference to rigorous standards. Tthe whole committee discussed each student paper. The results show that almost all students are meeting the knowledge and skills goals of the Program and that many of them do so with excellence. It should be noted that global studies has been introduced only fairly recently into the Women’s Studies curriculum, and so is not yet fully reflected in the knowledge of the students presently graduating.

The assessment process was time consuming but provided a number of advantages. It gave the students a learning experience that both capped their education and provided a rite of passage to their lives after graduation. It also provided the faculty with comprehensive and holistic perspective on the student’s abilities. However, the process of assessment was complicated by the fact that the student papers chose to address a wide range of topics. This range reflected the diversity and breadth of women’s studies and the multidisciplinarity of its approach. The Outcomes Assessment Committee plans to raise with the whole Women’s Studies faculty the question of developing a more focused assessment instrument.


Assessment prior to 1998

The 1989-90 process focused on knowledge goals K-1 (issues), and skill goals S-2 (writing,) and S-3 (analysis) by having a faculty member and an outside expert evaluate students' performance on final exams in a capstone course. The outside expert was Prof. Jodi Wetzel, director of the Institute for Women's Studies at Metropolitan State College-Denver. The evaluators reported that the students had excellent ability to analyze arguments and interpretations, and acceptable knowledge of the area's main topics and writing ability.

In 1990-91, majors in a required course took an exam designed to evaluate knowledge goals K-1 (issues) and K-3 (diversity). These, and projects designed and carried out by majors in a senior research seminar were evaluated independently by three faculty, using pre-established guidelines and questions about how the students' performance reflected the two knowledge goals and skills goal S-4 (research). The raters agreed on the final assessments. On average, 50% of the students who took the exam were rated as having excellent knowledge in the various areas assessed, and another 35% had acceptable knowledge. An average of 40% of the research projects were rated as excellent in the various areas assessed, and another 40% were rated acceptable.

Prof. Wetzel's 1989-90 overall evaluation of the department's assessment procedure recommended switching to a portfolio review. This procedure began in 1991-92 with portfolios submitted in a capstone critical thinking course given for the first time that spring. Graduating senior majors taking the seminar were asked to collect a portfolio of all materials from their Women Studies courses, and to write a short summary for each course. Specific questions about learning styles and experiences were provided to help guide their reflections. After constructing separate reflections for each course, they wrote a full paper about their experience as a Women Studies major, tracing the main themes and content of their learning experience. In addition, each student was asked to design and carry out a research project on a topic that was an extension of their learning experience. Three faculty independently rated the reflective and research papers, using guidelines and specific questions about how the students' performance reflected each knowledge or skill goal. Each question was rated on a 3-point scale of "excellent," "acceptable," or "poor." This procedure has been used every year since, and the faculty continue to refine the method. By 1994-95, the portfolio materials include a research paper completed for any CU-Boulder Women Studies course, shorter papers and examinations from Women Studies courses, and materials from the capstone seminar. These include the reflective paper on their experience as a Women Studies major, definitions of major terms in the discipline, and a report on a service learning project.

In 1991-92, 11 graduating majors submitted papers. While the seminar is required of all students who entered the major in or after 1991-92, the students who graduated in the spring of 1992-93 came under the old requirements and elected not to enroll in the capstone course. Nonetheless, five volunteered to participate in the assessment process by submitting portfolios and research projects. In 1993-94 and 1994-95, all graduating seniors (9 and 13, respectively) took the capstone seminar. The results have been quite consistent over the years: the majority of the ratings are "excellent" for almost all goals, and there have been very few "poor" ratings. In general, most students display an excellent knowledge of the history and major paradigms of Women Studies, womens' cultural and racial diversity, and the main social, economic and political issues affecting contemporary women.

Most students also display an excellent ability to analyze, synthesize, and critically evaluate concepts and information as well as various paradigms in Women Studies scholarship. The 1994-95 assessment indicated that this year's students were especially well prepared in the areas of feminist theory and ethnic and racial diversity.

In 1995-96 three faculty evaluated the portfolios of 19 graduating seniors who completed the capstone course with an emphasis on the final synthesizing paper on "Basic Ideas." The focus was on knowledge goals K-3 (diversity), K-4 (single region), and K-5 ((scholarship), and skill goals S-2 (writing) and S-3 (analysis). Over 50% of the students performed excellently in demonstrating in-depth knowledge in a selected area of Women Studies, in synthesizing ideas, and in writing well-focused and coherent essays. All students performed acceptably or better in demonstrating knowledge of racial and cultural diversity, knowledge of the main concepts and ideas in Women Studies, and in synthesizing and analyzing ideas.

In 1996-97 the two full professors in Women's Studies evaluated the portfolios of eleven graduating seniors who completed the capstone seminar, emphasizing the final 25 page paper on "Basic Ideas in Women's Studies." They evaluated knowledge goals K-1(issues), K-2 (history), and K-3 (diversity); and skills goals S-1 (themes) and S-2 (writing). They found that 60% of the graduating seniors performed excellently in their knowledge of the economic, political, social and psychological issues of contemporary women's lives, in knowledge of the main concepts and ideas in women's studies and in knowledge of the racial and cultural diversity of women's experience. The same percentage performed excellently in both skills goals: S-1, the ability to synthesize ideas, and S-2, the ability to write a focused analytical essay. While a small minority (one or two students) performed more poorly in both knowledge and skills goals, 85% of the graduating seniors performed in the acceptable to excellent range.

Although it is quite time-consuming, the Women Studies faculty prefer the portfolio method. First, it encourages undergraduates to participate more fully in the experience. Second, it gives students a learning experience that both caps their education and provides a rite of passage to their life after graduation. It is a more comprehensive and holistic approach to assessing student learning than the previous methods had been. Finally, it gives the faculty valuable information which informs their annual curriculum planning.

Index of unit summaries

l:\ir\Outcomes\OA0102\wmst.doc, OA9899\women99.doc

Last revision 01/24/03


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