Anne Phillips, Professor of English, is quick to remind people that assessment in the English department is far from a one person job. Her coworkers are more than happy to work together to create measurable results. “I have the best colleagues in the world,” said Phillips.
There is a huge sense of community within the English department, which carries over into assessment work. Phillips, Naomi Wood, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department Head Karin Westman, and the Undergraduate Advisory Committee were the driving force behind creating ENGL 698, the capstone course. Wood and Instructor Anna Goins played an instrumental role in the department’s discussion-based student learning outcome, which reads, “Participate in discussions by listening to others’ perspectives, asking productive questions, and articulating original ideas.” Wood and Goins utilized oral examinations to meet this outcome, but Phillips said other methods have included online message boards, or Associate Professor Kimball Smith’s approach which involves tracking how often students speak in class.
Phillips’s work began with the concept of assessment itself. “I realized that we needed more faculty to buy in, they needed to understand what assessment was about,” said Phillips. “They (faculty) realized that if they explained to students what their outcomes were, and what they wanted students to know and be able to do and how specific assignments fit in with those outcomes, students were much more engaged in what they were doing….and that made the teaching more rewarding.”
Assessment isn’t just limited to the English majors. Phillips cites Han Yu, Professor, and the Technical and Professional Writing Committee as a model of assessment. The committee continuously assesses internal outcomes for ENGL 415, Written Communication for Engineers; ENGL 417, Written Communication for the Workplace; and ENGL 516, Written Communication for the Sciences.
Phillips is more than happy to sing her colleagues’ praises, and mentions many more examples of her department’s dedication. She commends Assistant Professor Mary Kohn for participating in assessment methods with two different courses in just one year. She lauds Associate Professor Kara Northway’s work with undergraduate research and independent study. Most of all, her genuine excitement for the faculty and staff in the English department is never lacking. It’s a level of enthusiasm that will certainly take the department far as it continues to provide the very best education in English.