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Roots of Contemporary Issues RCI

Program Assessment

RCI faculty strive to build high levels of achievement among students as they develop and improve upon the five UCORE learning goals. To know whether we are successful or not, RCI leadership has developed in partnership with RCI faculty, WSU Libraries, and the Office for the Assessment of Teaching and Learning a robust and ongoing assessment program that provides faculty with measurable data that can help them make adjustments and improvements in their teaching. Our assessment results help us make decisions about continued training efforts and resources.

Since its inception in 2012, the RCI program has had an opportunity to gather data, including assessment data, and to make adjustments based on that data, and we have seen some preliminary results from those adjustments. We have had measureable success in our efforts to:

  • contribute to university-level assessment as part of the upcoming accreditation.
  • expand our engagement with university programs aimed at improving student success and retention.
  • improve the training and coordination among faculty to ensure the quality of teaching across sections and campuses.
  • expand our engagement across and university and beyond though publications, presentations, and communication.
  • develop a hiring strategy that is able to ensure both a stable pool of the highest quality faculty and introduce innovation though hiring younger faculty with new ideas.

For the latest results of our assessment efforts, please visit our 2016-17 assessment report (to be published by October 2017).

Our assessment program involves several regular initiatives:

  1. Classroom observations. Members of the Steering Committee regularly visit faculty’s classes during Fall and Spring semester to…
  2. Syllabus review. The Steering Committee also regularly reviews faculty syllabi to ensure alignment of assignments with learning goals and to facilitate the sharing of innovations with other faculty.
  3. Review of Lesson Plans. At the beginning of the program in 2012, a design committee developed two lesson plans for each of the five themes. Since that time, individual faculty have regularly contributed lesson plans on new issues, which other faculty can then adopt with relative ease. The Steering Committee reviews these lesson plans and offers feedback to faculty on their alignment with UCORE learning goals.
  4. Review of Student Evaluations. In concert with the Director, the Assistant Director reviews aggregate reports for all RCI courses from Student Course Feedback Forms collected by the College of Arts and Sciences and prepares an annual assessment report that includes a comparison between how students perceived their experience in RCI to how well they met the learning goals measured in our direct assessment (see point 5). The Assistant Director shares these findings with faculty, and together, faculty discuss whether or not to make any programmatic adjustments based on student feedback.
  5. Direct Assessment of Student Writing. Since 2013, the RCI program, in collaboration with Corey Johnson of WSU Libraries, has conducted a direct assessment of students’ final research papers in order to measure student progress on UCORE learning goals. In 2015-16, our efforts were greatly enhanced when we added the Office for the Assessment of Teaching and Learning as an assessment partner. With a 10-year plan drafted by Director Jesse Spohnholz, we will continue these efforts in order to expand the kinds of assignments we directly assessment so that we can measure all five of the UCORE learning goals on a rotating basis. Our direct assessment has already produced tangible changes to how we teach undergraduate students and how we message the importance of skills to them.

Closing the Loop

All of our assessment efforts are designed to improve student learning outcomes at WSU. As such, RCI faculty, teaching assistants, and university partners engage in an ongoing set of discussions and training sessions in order to realize such improvements. These include:

  1. Annual Orientation sessions (each August) designed to introduce new postdoctoral teaching fellow and graduate teaching assistants to the RCI program’s focus on skills.
  2. Teaching Colloquiums coordinated by the RCI Curriculum Coordinator and the History Graduate Student Association to enhance the effectiveness of teaching assistants in the classroom and as individual mentors for student research. Colloquium topics include: professional conduct in the classroom and with their supervising faculty member; efficient, fair, and helpful grading; and balancing their teaching responsibilities with progress toward their graduate degree.
  3. Coordination with the Writing Center. Given that RCI students write on a regular basis, the Writing Center has become an invaluable resource. Writing Center Tutors receive regular training on RCI-specific assignments in order to increase students’ ability to convey their ideas and evidence clearly through writing.
  4. Individual Mentoring. The Director, Assistant Director, and Curriculum Coordinator meet with individual faculty for mentoring, which is important to ensure consistency, but also to help less experienced faculty develop their teaching skills. Training includes instruction in the use of Blackboard; explicit evidence of UCORE learning goals in syllabuses, assignments, and classroom activities; orientation to the library research assignment series and final research essay; helping new faculty orient to WSU; coordination of pedagogical efforts as they relate to UCORE learning goals; and preparing course materials.
  5. Curriculum Revision. Because the centerpiece of the RCI Program is connecting the global past to constantly changing contemporary issues and because new scholarship continues to emerge, the lesson plans have to be revised regularly. The Curriculum Coordinator undertakes this work, including for WSU Global Campus sections, and writes at least one new set of lessons each academic year.