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DELTA STATE UNIVERSITY

Unit Strategic Plan and Annual Report -- Academic Year 2009-2010

___X___Academic Unit ______ Administrative/Support Unit


  1. Unit Title: Division of Social Sciences*


School/College or University Division: College of Arts and Sciences
Unit Administrator: John J. Green, Ph.D., Division Chair
*[Notes: During the course of the 2009-2010 academic year the Department of History was merged with the Division of Social Sciences (DSS). Therefore, one plan and report is being submitted on behalf of this combined unit. Furthermore, the DSS is affiliated with the Madison Center and the Institute for Community-Based Research (ICBR). Beginning with last year’s annual report, the Madison Center submits a separate plan and annual report. Housed within the DSS, the ICBR is a collaborative project/initiative with the Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED). The Director of the ICBR periodically turns in a memorandum through the DSS and CCED. As affiliates of the DSS, both the Madison Center and ICBR are referenced in the current report where applicable.]

Program Mission: The Division of Social Sciences (DSS) seeks to facilitate intellectual, cultural and professional development by engaging students in a dynamic learning environment that promotes broad-based student development. Its goal is to explore the main approaches to understanding the social world. In the process, DSS faculty members strive to develop skills and enduring habits of mind, including intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, tolerance of and openness to different views and values, and the ability to communicate thoughts orally and in writing. This educational framework should enable students to embark on a lifetime of learning and to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Upon graduation, students are well prepared for advanced study and careers working in the private and public sectors, including businesses, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and schools.

 


II. Learning Outcomes (Academics)


The Division of Social Sciences (DSS) housed nine operational academic degree programs during the 2009-2010 academic year (including those in the Department of History). An additional certificate program – Paralegal Studies – was linked to the DSS starting in the 2009-2010 academic year. The following table provides selected key student learning outcomes for each of the DSS academic programs.
Student learning outcomes for the various programs are tracked through performance on exams, papers, practicum and internship projects, comprehensive exams (graduate students) and thesis projects (graduate students). Additionally, for undergraduate programs, the Division offers two courses critically important to assessment: SSC 101 Engaging the Social Sciences and SSC 499 Integrative Seminar in Social Sciences. These are one-credit courses used to address issues related to student retention, graduation and assessment. As the University began to direct more attention to assessment and student learning outcomes several years ago, the Division responded proactively with the development and implementation of these courses. They are required of bachelor-level students in the Political Science, Social Sciences, and Social Justice and Criminology degree programs. SSC 101 is intended for first year (freshmen and transfer) students, and SSC 499 is for students in their final year of studies. Currently led by Alan Barton, these courses involve faculty across the Division as guest speakers to talk about programs, navigating the University and professional development. Additionally, students are engaged in their academic portfolio documents, and they participate in pre- and post-test assessments related to student learning outcomes.

Furthermore, undergraduate students pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Education–Social Sciences degree have a series of assessments they most go through, including the Praxis I and II tests, portfolio and teacher work sample requirements, and student teaching internships. Their program of study includes two curriculum courses taught within the DSS (CUR 494 and CUR 495 for Methods of Teaching Social Studies) and the supervised teaching internship CUR 498.

The Division of Social Sciences has been proactive in its approach to assessment of student learning outcomes, and faculty members realize that there is a need for continuous improvement. Because the 2009-2010 academic year was a period of major changes in the structure and leadership of the Division combined with serious budget constraints, few overarching changes were made to assessment of student learning outcomes. However, attention was directed toward improvement by revisiting the importance of the Curriculum and Assessment Committees for the various programs, and charging them with increased responsibilities. With them in place, the coming year will involve additional activities within the Committees and between them in coordination with the Division Chair.
Student Learning Outcomes identified for DSS academic programs in the 2009-2010 academic year.

A. Learning Outcome

What should a graduate in the


BA in History
major know, value, or be able to do at graduation and beyond?

B. Data Collection & Analysis

1. What assessment tools and/or methods will you use to determine achievement of the learning outcome? 2. Describe how the data from these tools and/or methods will be/have been collected.

3. Explain the procedure to analyze the data.


C. Results of Evaluation

What were the findings of the analysis?


D. Use of Evaluation Results

1. List any specific recommendations.


2. Describe changes in curriculum, courses, or procedures that are proposed or were made/ are being made as a result of the program learning outcome assessment process.


Graduates of the BA in History program will know the basic chronology, major themes and developments of American and European History.
(GE #6, 8, 10)

Student performance in courses.
Senior portfolio.

The History program maintained standards including the requirement that History majors complete the Western Civilization and American History survey courses with a minimum of a “C” average to assure this learning outcome is met.


Given the pending merger with the DSS and its existing methods for evaluating learning outcomes (described above), the History faculty will revisit the evaluation process in the 2010-2011 academic year. The new process will be within the guidelines governing other such evaluations within the Division.

Graduates will have knowledge of the basic chronology, major themes and developments of Non-Western History.
(GE #7, 8, 10)


Student performance in courses.
Senior portfolio.

Because of limited faculty and budget constraints, current faculty members do not offer Non-Western History courses. Therefore, assessments were not conducted in the 2009-2010 academic year.


History faculty members recognize the need for majors to be exposed to Non-Western History prior to graduation. This desire is not new. Previously the department offered courses in Latin America, China and Japan, Terrorism, and the post-1945 world. The procedure for implementing Non-Western History courses into the major’s curriculum is primarily a function of hiring new personnel. The department has contracted in the past three years, taking those who taught Non-Western History. A new member could bring the skills needed to resurrect these courses. Additionally, existing personnel could retool to make themselves capable of teaching Non-Western History. Neither solution is a quick fix.


History graduates will understand historiography and the craft of creating history. They will recognize the merit of historical analysis as a means of gaining perspective on current events.
(GE #7, 8, 9, 10)

History majors are required to complete a historiography course (HIS 400) that rigorously instructs students in the different methodologies. Students also examine how the writing of history, even the same event, has changed over time. Students are obliged to demonstrate their mastery of historiography and methodology through significant writing assignments.

As a whole, students in the spring 2010 historiography course performed at a satisfactory level. However, only a few excelled. The underdevelopment of writing skills in general constituted the greatest deficiency. Of the seven undergraduates enrolled in this year’s HIS 400, only one was a senior. Many were, in fact, underclassmen.

History advisors will encourage their advisees to take HIS 400 as an upperclassman when their writing and analytical skills will be more developed.

History graduates will have the skills to think critically and write persuasively using the style of trained historians. They will be able to critically analyze and interpret both primary and secondary sources.
(GE #1, 2, 3, 4)

Over the course of their time in the program, History majors are required to write a significant number of papers across courses. The program collects a number of these to maintain portfolios for all History majors.


The consistent emphasis on writing and critical analysis in History courses leads majors in general to be excellent thinkers and communicators. Yet, to keep pace with those in other comparable institutions the program may need to add a research seminar to the requirements for the major.




History faculty members have decided to undertake a study of the feasibility of offering a capstone research seminar course. This course would require History majors to put into practice the analytical and writing skills that the program emphasizes throughout their academic career. The end product, an article-length paper, would be a valuable addition to a graduate or law school application.

A. Learning Outcome
BA in Political Science

B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Students in the Political Science major will be able to think critically and write clearly about politics and government in contemporary societies.
(GE #1, 2)

Internal course assessments, especially PSC 103 and 201.
Students in the online PSC 201 course develop their critical thinking skills primarily through participation in web-based discussion boards. Students write and share their responses to readings and/or videos with the other students enrolled in the course that deal with topics corresponding with a variety of themes covered in their assigned text and/or with current events in American politics. 
Senior portfolio documents are collected and evaluated for all Political Science majors.
Oral internship defenses.


Many of the students in this major appear to be sufficiently prepared in writing. However, additional attention to writing skills is warranted.

PSC 103 pre-test surveys of student skills suggest that most students’ had limited preparation in the areas of literature and history.  Students noted low interest in politics and chose PSC 103 simply because it was a general education choice.  Writing was an essential tool in PSC 103.  The course uncovered serious limitation in the General Education population.  Post-test results show a significant portion of students still writing below the acceptable level.  
Students in the online PSC 201 course are often hesitant particularly since the majority of students are not Political Science majors. Based on the pre-tests conducted at the beginning of the semester, these students do not have a high level of knowledge on American Politics. However, by the middle and particularly the end of the semester, students become more comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions with one another and have been encouraged to respectfully question the premises of an author’s or other students’ arguments as well as defend their own argument or side on a particular issue. Evaluation results show that students often find the discussion boards one of the most enjoyable parts of the course.


Faculty members continue to emphasize writing in their courses, using a variety of strategies and activities.
Using the post-test results, other topics and writing assignments will be developed for future PSC 201 courses that will help engage students in contemporary American Politics.
Planning efforts are underway to engage students in additional writing activities, and to conduct follow-up assessments.

Students in the Political Science major will understand the role of politics at the local, national and international levels.
(GE #6)

Internal course assessments.
Course-based writing assignments.
Web-based assessments and pre- and post-tests are used for students in the online PSC 201 course to assess their abilities to describe the institutional framework of the US government, the roles of the three branches of government, analyze the role of the media, elite and mass political participation, as well as domestic and foreign public policies.
Senior portfolio documents.


Students’ pre-tests demonstrate room for improvement when it comes to their level of political knowledge, particularly public policy. However, by the end of the semester, most students are able to improve their scores so that it they score higher (ranging from approximately 25% to 40% higher) on their post-tests. This improvement is useful and prepares them for additional entry-level course work offered in the Political Science program such as PSC 302 Politics of Globalization which focuses on domestic and international public policies, PSC 360 Comparative Politics, and PSC 370 International Politics.

Additional planning is taking place within the DSS as a whole to increase student engagement with and understanding of international issues and how they relate to local, regional and national events.
Political Science faculty members are working with faculty and students from other DSS programs.
Non-majors and those who have scored particularly well on their assessments and post-tests are encouraged to explore additional courses and a major in Political Science.

Further analysis of the web-based assessments as well as the pre- and post-test results will be conducted to determine if and what types of patterns might be evident in these assessments in order to improve scores in future semesters.


A. Learning Outcome
BS in Education–

Social Sciences



B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Graduates from the BS in Education–Social Sciences program should possess the knowledge, capabilities and dispositions to organize and provide instruction at the appropriate school level for the study of culture and cultural diversity.

 

(GE #7)



Information is collected from the student teaching internship portfolio documents, Praxis II test scores, and evaluation instruments from student teaching. Student teachers are evaluated by the cooperating teacher, subject area University supervisor, and College of Education supervisor. Data are tabulated and filed in an assessment report. All information is analyzed by the subject area supervisor and discussed by the Social Science Education Committee.

As in previous years, students are being exposed to a wide array of instruction and materials important for the study of culture and appreciation for cultural diversity. Some students are now incorporating diversity-relevant themes in their teacher work samples.

Increased emphasis is being placed on issues of diversity relating to culture, nationality, race, class and gender. BSE students are being exposed to these issues more frequently. This should continue and expanded to address issues relating to globalization.

 

BSE students, who are licensed to teach at the 7-12 school levels, should possess the knowledge, capabilities and dispositions to organize and provide instruction in Social Studies.

 

(GE #2, 4, 8, 9)


Information is collected from the student teaching portfolio documents, Praxis II test scores, and evaluation instruments from student teaching internships. Student teachers are evaluated by the cooperating teacher, subject area University supervisor, and College of Education supervisor.

 


Praxis II scores rose slightly during the 2009-2010 academic year relative to previous years.

A second part to the Teaching Methods for Social Studies curriculum course was required of students starting in the fall 2009 semester. Students now take two methods courses taught by faculty in the DSS.


Regarding the Social Studies teaching methods courses (fall 09): The average percent scores across all nine domains was 97%. [Based on student n = 6. Lowest scores were for assessment plans (95%) and the highest scores were for students’ understanding of contextual factors (98%)]. 

The resource library for students preparing to take the Praxis II exam was continued.

DSS faculty members have participated in curriculum and program redesign efforts led by partners in the College of Education.



A. Learning Outcome
BS in Social Justice and Criminology

B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Social Justice and Criminology majors will understand the complexities and interconnections between social institutions, interaction and the criminal justice system.
(GE #1, 6)

Internal course assessments.
Senior portfolio documents.
Internship documents.
In order to test general social science knowledge, students are given pre- and post-tests on basic and advanced concepts in Social Sciences. This information is collected in SSC 101 and SSC 499.
Faculty members who regularly interact with SJC students are asked to provide input in evaluation and planning activities, especially those members of the SJC Curriculum and Assessment Committee.


Students continue to respond to increased demands in the program, as evidenced by their senior portfolio documents and internship performance.
Regarding their knowledge of general societal interactions and institutions, among the 3 Social Justice and Criminology students who took the pre-test in a previous semester and took the post-test in fall 2009, the average score on the pre-test had been 38 and the average post-test score was 43; 2 of the 3 students increased their percent scores.
From the 11 Social Justice and Criminology students who took the pre-test in a previous semester and the post-test in spring 2010, the average score on the pre-test had been 43 and the average post-test score was 43; 5 of the 11 students increased their percent scores.

The SJC program curriculum has been significantly overhauled in an incremental fashion over the course of the 2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic years. All changes were approved by Academic Council and a new program of study was released that more accurately reflects current interests and concerns in the field.

Curriculum and Assessment Committee members are working to address the student learning outcomes for the new program of study.


Social Justice and Criminology majors will develop skills in critical thinking, synthesis and analysis of information sources about social justice and criminology.
(GE #1, 3)

Senior portfolio documents.
Internship documents.

Many improvements were made through redesign of the SJC program over the course of the past three years. However, there is still work to be done in terms of moving students further toward recognizing the importance of critical thinking, analyzing information, the value of research, and making connections between courses from across the program of study.

Through emphasis on both practical and academic elements of Social Justice and Criminology, students are being guided toward critical thinking and making connections between theory, method and practice. Students are being advised to pursue diverse internship experiences and take advantage of research opportunities.

A. Learning Outcome
BS in Social Sciences

B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Social Science majors will demonstrate knowledge of disciplines including but not limited to geography, political science, and sociology, in terms of their respective history, content, purpose, methodologies and contributions to knowledge about societies.
(GE #8, 9)


Senior portfolio documents.

SSC 101 and 499 pre- and post tests.

Input from the assessment team members representing the different disciplines encompassed by this program.


Review of senior portfolio documents using rubrics demonstrated change in the depth and quality of work submitted by students over the course of their time in the program.
Among the 7 Social Science (including Sociology) majors who took the pre-test in a previous semester and took the post-test in spring 2010, the average score on the pre-test had been 46 and the average post-test score was 55.

The assessment team revised student learning outcomes for the overall major and for each specific concentration area in the 2008-2009 academic year. These were followed for 2009-2010 as well. Additional attention is needed for further analysis in coming years.


Social Science majors will gain knowledge regarding social structures, interaction, change and social problems, and they will better understand connections between global, regional, national and local phenomena.
(GE #6, 8)

Senior portfolio documents.
SSC 101 and 499 pre- and post tests.
Input from the assessment team members representing the different disciplines encompassed by this program.

Students’ portfolio documents were reviewed, and they were found to demonstrate improvement across most students’ program of study. There are some weaknesses and areas in need of additional attention. These include writing and translating conceptual approaches to practical experiences.

This information has been shared with the DSS Chair and will be discussed in Division-wide faculty meetings.

A. Learning Outcome

Paralegal Studies


B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Note: The Paralegal Studies program is not an academic degree program. It is a certificate program offering credits at the undergraduate level. Students may apply these courses to a minor in Paralegal Studies. Moved to be housed in the Division of Social Sciences at the beginning of this 2009-2010 academic year, the Paralegal Studies Program operates as a formal partnership between the Division of Social Sciences and the Office of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education.

Paralegal students will develop an understanding of the law and the primary responsibilities of a paralegal in assisting an attorney.
(GE #2, 4, 10)

Course-based assessments.
Performance on research and writing assignments.

Through their course-based performance, students appear to be learning the basics of the world of paralegal work, but there is a need for improvement. This is especially true for substantive area content.

A pre- and post-assessment activity for students in the paralegal program would help the instructors to better gauge the areas where students need assistance. This would also aid in revising the curriculum over time.

Paralegal students will have knowledge and skills concerning legal research, the different types of legal writing and communication.
(GE #2, 4)


Course-based assessments.

Performance on research and writing assignments.


Students are working to meet increased demands for legal research and writing. They do struggle somewhat, and it is difficult to meet their needs in a totally online environment.

As a way of better tracking student performance and assessing student learning, discussion will take place in the coming year to require student portfolio documents.
Additionally, it will be recommended that some students pursue advanced research and/or practicum opportunities. This will assist with their professional development and provide a basis for additional assessment.

A. Learning Outcome
MS in Community Development

B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Community Development graduate students will engage in applied research and communicate results in an appropriate and effective manner, orally and in writing, to multiple audiences.
(GE #1, 2, 3, 6, 8)

Course-based research projects.
Practicum reports.
Theses.
Comprehensive exams.
Professional presentations.

A majority of Community Development courses, all of which are cross-listed with Sociology or Social Sciences, involve applied research projects.
Among the five students who graduated from the program in the 2009-2010 academic year, four students conducted practicum projects and one student completed a thesis project.

Four students (non-thesis) took comprehensive exams. Three of them passed on their first write. One student had to rewrite on two items.

Students authored/co-authored with faculty reports and delivered presentations at professional conferences such as the annual meetings of the Southern Sociological Society and the Alabama-Mississippi Sociological Association.


Faculty members will continue to focus on community and community development theory, research methods, applied research projects and oral presentations throughout the curriculum.
Students are being persuaded to engage in research across the program of study and to engage in this work beyond their courses and even past graduation.
There will be a concerted effort in the next academic year to get students to take their comprehensive exams and defend their thesis projects earlier in the year to allow more time for follow-up corrective action when weaknesses are identified.

Community Development graduate students will be exposed to and learn theory, method and practice at a level to sufficiently prepare them for advanced study and/or work in the field.
(GE #1, 2, 5)

Placement of students pursuing advanced study in related fields.
Positions held by former students across the field of community development.
Feedback from alumni and their employers.


Recent graduates are engaged in a wide variety of professional positions, and some recently completed/are close to completing advanced, post-masters education (e.g. PhD programs).
Some employers of previous graduates continue to contact the Graduate Coordinator to connect with upcoming and recent graduates.

Attention is being directed toward keeping up with developments in the field and expectations about what knowledge and skills a graduate should have after completing the program.

A. Learning Outcome
MS in Social Justice and Criminology


B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Social Justice and Criminology graduate students will be able to conduct, analyze, interpret and apply various works of scholarly theory and research in order to develop responses to contemporary issues facing the fields of criminal justice and criminology.
(GE #1, 2, 6, 8)

Internal course assessments.
Specific internal course assessment of CRJ 630 Theories of Criminal Behavior, a theory-driven and writing-intensive course.
Comprehensive examinations.
Practicum/thesis reports.

Slightly more than half (6/11) of students who took CRJ 630 passed with a grade of B or higher. Analysis showed that students did better on essay exams than they did on longer writing assignments.
Comprehensive examinations from five 2009-2010 students were analyzed. Four students passed their written exams on their first write. One student had to rewrite on two items.

As with other graduate programs in the Division, there will be a concerted effort in the next academic year to get students to take their comprehensive exams and defend their thesis projects earlier in the year to allow more time for follow-up corrective action when weaknesses are identified.

Social Justice and Criminology graduate students will develop an advanced knowledge of theory, research methods and statistical analysis.

(GE #1, 3)


Internal course assessments.
Specific internal course assessment of SSC 669 Quantitative Research and Statistics (Note: All students in SSC 669 engage in a real-world research project using data from the 2009 Delta Rural Poll.)
Comprehensive examinations.
Practicum/thesis reports.

The main weakness identified in the Quantitative Research and Statistics course is limited basic preparation, followed in prevalence by students’ self-perceived weaknesses. However, students that trudge through typically do well, passing the class with a grade of B or higher.
As mentioned above, all students passed their written comprehensive exams (5/5), including the theory and methods sections. One of the students had to rewrite on two items.



Research methods and statistical analysis courses are being refined and delivered online. Starting in fall 2009, students in three of the Division’s graduate programs began taking the same Quantitative Research and Statistics course (SSC 669), and two of the programs are now requiring the same Research Methods course (SSC 570).
Supplementary face-to-face workshops will be offered to methods and statistics students beginning in the 2010-2011 academic year.
Student research, especially the thesis option, is being emphasized.

A. Learning Outcome
MS in Secondary Education–History

B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

History graduate students will demonstrate an ability to critically analyze historical figures and events by applying key concepts and methods.

(GE #1, 2, 6, 8)


Course-based projects.
Comprehensive exams.
Thesis projects.


Regarding course-based projects, students were expected to analyze historical developments and scholarly literature through various writing assignments and class discussions. In the evaluated courses, students performed well in discussions and demonstrated a good general knowledge of the subjects. However, writing clearly, succinctly and persuasively proved to be the students' weaknesses.
No students from this program took comprehensive exams in the 2009-2010 academic year. There are students scheduled to take exams in the summer and fall semesters.

As a way of responding to accreditation requirements, especially the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the MED/Secondary Education-History program will be reviewed in the coming year, with potential curriculum changes and a new assessment plan to be put in place.

A. Learning Outcome

What should a graduate in the
MS in Secondary Education–Social Sciences


B. Data Collection & Analysis

C. Results of Evaluation

D. Use of Evaluation Results

Social Science graduate students will demonstrate an ability to critically analyze social phenomena by applying key social science concepts and methods.
(GE #1, 2, 6, 8)

Course-based projects.

Comprehensive exams.

Thesis projects.


Students taking graduate level courses in the Division appear to do well in their content areas. However, they need more development in the areas of research and writing.
No students from this program took comprehensive exams in the 2009-2010 academic year. There are students scheduled to take exams in the next academic year.

The Social Science Education Committee is planning to review graduate-level course syllabi and compare them to trends in the field to determine if there are gaps in terms of what is being taught.
Additionally, to respond to accreditation requirements, especially the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the MED/Secondary Education-Social Sciences program will be reviewed in the coming year, and a new assessment plan will be put in place.




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