Assessment Tools

Here we describe some of the tools which are used broadly to assess many aspects of our program.

Student Exit Surveys

Undergraduates

Exit surveys are administered to all graduating students with majors in mathematics, including joint majors and math education majors.

The survey contains multiple choice questions as well as opportunities for more extensive open-ended responses.

These surveys are distributed and collected by our office staff, who compile the results and present them for review to the Department Chair and the Undergraduate Committee.

The survey seeks undergraduate student input in four areas:

(i) how well the department and the student's particular academic program are perceived to have satisfied each of the listed desired student learning outcomes for our programs;

(ii) an evaluation of other aspects of the student's experience in the department, such as the quality of advisement and teaching, the range and availability of courses offered, and the quality of computing facilities.;

(iii) identifying what the department does particularly well;

(iv) identifying areas in which the department might improve.

A copy of the Undergraduate Student Exit Survey may be found here.

Graduate Students

Exit surveys are administered to all graduate prior to completing their degree programs.

The survey contains multiple choice questions as well as opportunities for more extensive open-ended responses.

These surveys are distributed and collected by our office staff, who compile the results and present them for review to the Department Chair and the Graduate Committee.

The survey seeks graduate student input in six areas, with a number of specific topics in each area being addressed:

(i) how well the department and the student's particular academic program are perceived to have satisfied each of the listed desired student learning outcomes for our programs;

(ii) the quality of the academic program, such as the range and quality of the courses offered and required;

(iii) the admission process, academic advising and wider professional support;

(iv) their experience in their roles as graduate teaching assistants;

(v) the physical environment, such as office space and computing facilities;

(vi) the departmental human / social environment.

A copy of the Graduate Student Exit Survey may be found here.

 

Individual Course Assessment

Course Goals and Assessment

Every class syllabus includes a detailed set of desired student learning outcomes, formulated specifically for the content and other goals of that course. Such outcomes are typically measured in the course of the usual student evaluation process, namely as particular items in examinations or components of student assignments. Data to assess the extent to which each desired outcome is met is accumulated by flagging the particular exam items or assignments that relate to that particular goal and then collecting data that documents the level of student success. Faculty maintain records on the particular course goals, related assessment items, and measured levels of student success on those items. The data is analyzed to determine whether the associated goal is being satisfactorily met or needs to be addressed further by curricular or instructional changes. Records of the relevant items, data and faculty responses are maintained by individual faculty.

Lists of the course objectives / student learning outcomes (both generic and specific) for each course taught are maintained in the department office and shared amongst faculty.

Skills Tests

To ensure that the goals of basic computational proficiency are met in the most fundamental courses, namely the pre-calculus and calculus sequences, we have established skills tests for students in those classes. This requires that students score at least 80% on a test focused entirely on one particular skill (such as differentiating 10 functions of specific types). Failure to pass the test (which may be taken, in different forms, several times) results in either lowering the course grade by one letter or course failure (depending on the course). This distinguishes such fundamental skills from the higher order goals of these courses, and is a very effective tool in forcing students to acquire the necessary basic computational skills.

 

Feedback Loop

The primary conduit for curricular and programmatic review and change is the Math Curriculum Committee. This committee formulated the overall program objectives, coordinates the formulation of the particular course objectives, and is responsible for all aspects of the outcomes assessment process and data review. All the assessment data from individual faculty and the student surveys is available to that group. The Curriculum Committee meets regularly to discuss programmatic initiatives and course modifications.

While such changes have historically been at the instigation of particular faculty responding to perceived needs in specific areas, or sometimes at the behest of the Chair promoting more extensive programmatic changes in response to perceived weaknesses in the program or changes in the field, these discussions have not generally been driven by data on outcomes assessment. This has now changed, with the relevant assessment data being available to drive and direct the discussion. While this is unlikely to accelerate the on-going evolutionary changes in the nature and sequencing of most courses, it has facilitated more rapid and substantial changes to the structure and emphases of courses offered in multiple sections, enhancing the consistency of these offerings and the extent to which all students meet the desired learning outcomes.