Outcomes Assessment Plan
Since the inception of formal outcomes assessment strategies at ESU in 1989, the Departments of Physical Sciences—the division—has continued to refine and to implement its plan for outcomes assessment. The following plan, for which a variation has been in place since 1991 for all undergraduates, is applicable to the MS in Physical Sciences for emphases in chemistry, earth science, physics, and physical science. Goals for MS options were formalized in 2000.
- A portfolio of course work. Each semester a “sample” of student work is provided for each graduate student for his/her advising folder. The graduate student’s faculty advisor and graduate course faculty ensure that this is done. The cumulative portfolio of class work documents progress toward the degree and maturation with the discipline.
- A tangible product from a capstone experience for each MS graduate. Evidence of the outcomes from the capstone experience involves faculty who mentor the research projects or theses, and the student’s committee.
- An exit survey and interview for each graduate. Faculty advisors—particularly the research advisor—monitor progress toward degree completion. The advisors ensure that all graduates are surveyed with a written instrument, and are interviewed by the Physical Sciences chair prior to graduation.
- Placement information for as many graduates as is possible. The Office of Career Services (OCS) conducts an annual follow-up of graduates and provides important information concerning post-graduation activity. This element of the Outcomes Assessment Plan is prepared by the director of OCS and serves as the documentation for this element of outcomes assessment.
- An alumni survey conducted with as many graduates as is possible about five years after graduation. It is felt that only more recent graduates may provide meaningful feedback to improve the quality of the current MS programs. In 1991 the 1985, 86, and 87 graduates were surveyed; a survey of 1988, 89, and 90 graduates was conducted in 1994; in 1997 a survey was conducted of 1991, 92, and 93 alumni of the various MS options; and in 2000 a survey was conducted of 1994, 95, and 96 MS recipients.
An outcomes assessment plan has been formulated, and has evolved to its present state. The number of responses is growing and the responses are encouraging. Students have been complimentary of their academic programs, but have also been candid if they sense some needs for improvement. The appropriate program faculty will use the results of outcomes assessment to complement and supplement other existing feedback mechanisms, including occasional focus groups, traditional student-faculty interactions, testing of students in regular classroom situations, and the end-of-the-course evaluations. Other miscellaneous outcomes indicators include unsolicited letters and email correspondence from graduates, or reports from employers, for example. This combined feedback will be utilized to inform our judgments concerning the curricula of the various programs.