Learning Goals and Assessment

Department/Program: Environmental Studies

1. Learning Goals

  1. Competence beyond the major-track introductory level in interpreting environmental information
  2. Develop a deeper understanding of the complex connections between environmental issues and social or political issues
  3. Develop the analytical and critical capacities necessary to formulate compelling arguments about environmental issues
  4. Engage both scholars and the lay public in discourse about environmental issues (mode of expression varied)
  5. Engage with scholars in the field who are making important environmental contributions
  6. Practical and theoretical experiences in environmental issues by undertaking a senior project

2. Published: Wesmaps and program website

3. Method of Evaluation

a. Self-assessment

Upon entering the major, students will write a one page self-assessment. This assessment will be posted to the student's electronic portfolio and made available to the student's advisor. In the assessment, students will describe their reasons for selecting the major, their current strengths and weaknesses with respect to environmental studies, and their personal goals within the major, including plans for a concentration. They will be encouraged to integrate the Program's learning goals in their self-assessment. Students will periodically meet with their environmental studies advisor to reflect on their progress in the major, using their self-assessment as a frame of reference. At minimum, these meetings will occur once per semester during the course scheduling period. Because environmental studies is inherently multi-disciplinary and because every student is linked to a primary major, student trajectories within the major are highly individualized. The self-assessment will make these plans explicit, and will help both the student and advisor chart the most successful path through the major.

b. Senior Capstone and Senior Colloquium

Every major completes a capstone project during their senior year. The format of the capstone is typically determined by the students' primary departments (e.g., thesis, essay, performance, exhibit). The purpose of the capstone experience is to challenge students to think creatively, deeply, and originally about an environmental issue and to produce a significant work that uses their expertise from their primary major. All capstone projects are formally evaluated by at least one faculty member. In addition, several times throughout their senior year, students present progress reports of their projects in the Senior Colloquium; faculty and student-peers attending the colloquia provide feedback for improvement. Senior Reflection

As a book-end to the self-assessment, Seniors will be asked to reflect on their experiences in the major. They will analyze their personal development in environmental studies and how the program impacted their development. These reflections will be recorded in the form of a questionnaire. Also, during one of the final colloquia in the spring, students will be encouraged to share their thoughts in a group setting and this will be recorded.

4. How the Department/Program Uses Assessment Information

The self-assessment and the subsequent iterative process between student and advisor of discussing the assessment will help to maximize student success in the program. The capstone projects and, more informally, the oral presentations in the senior colloquium, will help faculty evaluate the success of the curriculum in fulfilling the learning goals of the program. Both the iterative process of the self-assessment and the senior reflection will help inform curricular needs. For a multi-disciplinary program with faculty spread across all three divisions, the three common experiences (self-assessment, senior capstone / senior colloquium, senior reflection) will be critical for the evaluation of both students and the program. Once a year, a committee will use information from these common experiences to discuss the state of the program. A summary of these discussions, including any recommendations for change, will be shared with the full ENVS faculty.