Master of Science in Physical Sciences Learning Outcomes

(Chemistry, Earth Science, Physics and Physical Sciences Emphases)
Prepared by the Departments of Physical Sciences’ Graduate Education Committee

Program Learning Outcomes Courses and Exams Contributing to Learning Outcomes Definitions of methodologies (Qualitative or Quantitative) To Assess If Learning Outcomes Have Been Met Interpretation of Assessment Results
1.  Students demonstrate a basic undergraduate level of knowledge in their chosen emphasis in the physical sciences.  The emphasis areas are Earth Science, Chemistry, Physics and Physical Sciences/Teaching. Entering graduate students take qualifying and/or placement exams which are based on the understanding level of undergraduate material expected by the graduate program Students showing deficiencies are enrolled in the appropriate undergraduate or remedial courses.  If the appropriate remedial course is not available, a graduate course can be used with advisor approval. The expectations of students entering the graduate programs are reviewed by the various emphasis area faculty each year and the qualifying exams rewritten as necessary.
2.  Advanced level courses are required to extend the knowledge and skills of students in all fields within the chosen emphasis area of the physical sciences.


3. Elective courses are selected to meet student goals in consultation with research advisers and graduate committees.   The outcomes are for students to better understand their chosen emphasis areas in the physical sciences.

Core required courses:
Each emphasis area requires certain courses of all MS students in that area.  See the current graduate catalog for details.  Item 4 below gives the requirement for the research.
Elective courses:
Choices of elective courses depend upon the specialty fields within chosen emphasis area.  The elective courses are listed in the current graduate catalog.  Students select elective courses in consultation with individual advisers and research committees.
Comprehensive final exams or other appropriate means of evaluation are required in all courses.  Student evaluations of courses and instructors are used to help assess the value and appropriateness of course work.  Focus groups involving students during the program, and exit questionnaire and interviews by the chair upon graduation provide student input into the assessment process.  Alumni surveys provide feedback following graduation.

The evaluation process is based on the desire to know if students are mastering the concepts and details of the courses, i.e., what should they know versus what they do know.

Course content and assessment level is evaluated periodically for quality, conforming to recent subject developments, and appropriateness to the degree.  If mastery of the material is not achieved, the outcomes analysis will be revisited.

The faculty in each emphasis area serves as a committee of the whole in assessing and revising graduate courses and requirements.  If expectations are not being met, the courses are revised.  The Departments of Physical Sciences Graduate Education Committee meets during the academic year to assess the results of recruitment, testing, and graduation of M.S. students.

4.  Laboratory, field-based or pedagogical research is used to partially demonstrate the mastery of the specialty fields chosen by students.  Contributions of new information are expected of students choosing the thesis option. Successful completion of a research problem (requires a formal research report in lieu of a thesis) is required of all students. All students complete a thesis or formal research project report based on original research in conjunction with faculty research advisors.  Research results are normally presented at departmental seminars and always defended before their research committees. Graduate committees determine that research problems are clearly stated, reviews of pertinent literature completed, detailed research methods presented, and appropriate conclusions presented based on research findings.

Approved 1/29/2000 by PS Graduate Education Committee, and Departments' Faculty