Anthropology Program Assessment Plan

Anthropology Mission Statement:

The mission of the Anthropology Program at Utah State University is to prepare students for careers requiring skills and knowledge from a synthesis of the liberal arts and natural sciences. Graduates in anthropology are broadly thinking individuals exhibiting intellectual depth, effective reading and writing skills, and the ability to solve problems that span the humanities, the natural sciences, and the cultural diversity characteristic of the modern world.

Specific Learning Goals as these relate to the Mission Statement:

Disciplinary Knowledge

  • Know the nature, intent, and scope of anthropology (cultural, biological, archaeology, linguistics).

  • Attain depth in one of the following subfields: cultural, biological, archaeology.

  • Know the epistemologies of the humanities and of the sciences as they pertain to anthropology. Be familiar with the cultures of a major world region.

  • Develop recognition of and respect for human differences.


Methods of Inquiry

  • Ability to compare and contrast major theoretical perspectives.

  • Familiarity with a range of anthropological methods.

  • Ability to apply methods specific to one of the subfields: cultural, biological, archaeology.

Skills and Career Competencies

  • Comprehend reading material appropriate to course levels.

  • Communicate effectively in written and oral forms.

  • Conduct library research using modern methods

  • Use a computer for written work and for research

  • Be able to think critically about issues that require synthesis of perspectives from the humanities and the sciences in a culturally diverse world.

  • These learning goals are published in the Anthropology Program's advising sheet, on the web site, and in course syllabi.

Techniques and activities that are used in the assessment process

  • Assignments, Effective Grading, & Departmental Assessment. Specific assignments in each course assess students' learning in one or more of the program's specific learning goals. Faculty members make available to students the criteria on which they are evaluated for assignments.

  • Student Input. Faculty members collect from students information about how well the Anthropology Program is achieving its goals. This information might be from formal sources such as narrative comments on course evaluations or from informal sources such as in-class polls, “hall-way talk,” or discussions with faculty during office hours.

  • External Constituents' Input. The Department Head publishes a department newsletter annually and solicits from alumni, colleagues, and friends of the department, information on the success of the Anthropology Program in meeting its objectives.

  • Feedback Mechanisms. Anthropology faculty members meet throughout the academic year to discuss specific learning goals, assess the program, and plan any necessary changes based on assessment techniques and activities.

Assessment Checklist

  • Program learning goals explicitly stated and accessible to students on the green sheet, in the course catalogue, and on the Anthropology program web page.

  • Goals and means of assessment are included in the syllabus for each course.

  • Sequencing of courses and content of upper division course clusters are appropriate to attaining learning goals.

  • Balance in curriculum is appropriate to attaining learning goals.

  • Non-program course requirements and recommendations are appropriate to attaining learning goals.

  • Foundation courses serve as a gateway to depth courses.

  • Courses build upon skills learned in University Studies.

  • Methods requirement and content are appropriate to attaining learning goals.

  • Hands-on and independent learning opportunities (e.g., fieldwork, labs, museum).

  • Development of career skills is an important component of the program and reflect curriculum-wide in course content.

  • Content and assessment of specific courses are appropriate to attaining the learning goals stated for that course or required by the curriculum goals.

Assessment Methods and Programmatic Responses

The Anthropology Program assesses the quality of its educational program, the satisfaction of its majors, and the success of its graduates in several ways: 1) Instructor assessment of student performance; 2) Student assessment of instructor performance; 3) Student self assessment; and 4) Professional success of alumni.

1) Instructor assessment of student performance. Anthropology courses integrate a number of different assessment mechanisms, some designed specifically for this purpose, others designed to help student develop essential skills that simultaneously serve to facilitate evaluation of student knowledge acquisition and skill development (or lack thereof). These include but are not limited to

  • Objective and subjective quizzes and exams

  • Reflective essays

  • Article reviews

  • Research papers

  • Research proposals

  • Oral presentations

  • In-class discussions

  • Interactive Web exercises

  • Student-lead discussions

  • Quantitative exercises

  • Field research projects

  • Laboratory projects and assignments

  • Field schools

1) Student pre-professional employment (laboratory assistants, field crew members, museum technicians, etc.)

Student performance on these various tasks enables faculty to evaluate the level of educational attainment of students and any potential shortcomings in essential knowledge and skills that need addressing, the degree to which students are understanding and retaining information presented in class, the degree to which students understand the relevance of the material and skills learned in class to situations beyond the classroom and University, the degree to which students are able to apply what they have learned in class to novel situations. Our curriculum is designed to facilitate the transition of students from novice to scholar in the area of Anthropology.

2.) Student assessment of instructor performance.

Anthropology faculty receive copies of student course evaluation forms and summary data. They are encouraged to read and respond (through changes in course content, teaching style, etc.) to handwritten comments. The Program Director also receives copies of these forms and discusses the results with individual faculty members as needed and indicated.

Informal, in-class student polls (e.g, index cards, clickers) provide (or will soon provide) faculty with immediate feedback on student perceptions of course quality, lesson clarity, instructor effectiveness, and so forth. These mechanisms provide faculty with the opportunity to respond to student concerns in the same semester, rather than having to wait until the next semester and a new group of students.

Faculty take student evaluations seriously and conscientiously integrate comments and suggestions into future course and curriculum planning. Faculty are also being encouraged to document theirs responses to student comments.

3) Student self assessment.

Anthropology faculty have begun to implement ‘before and after’ quizzes in some courses to enable students to assess their own progress from beginning to end of the semester. For example, students in Osteology take a bone identification quiz on the first day of class; they are given the same quiz (for a grade) on the last day of class. The “Before” quizzes are handed out after the “After” quiz is administered so that each student can compare their answers and see for themselves what they have learned over the course of the semester.

Stepped learning opportunities move students from novice to experienced positions and permit students to recognize their own professional development. For example:

Archaeology students begin their learning experience in the classroom, proceed to field school, then volunteer in the lab, obtain volunteer and then paid field and lab positions, and often end their time in the program in supervisory positions.

Students in the Ethnography field school precede this experience with an on-campus course in field methods and some return for a second season as field school Tas.

In the Anthropology Museum, students move from the introductory Museum Studies course into credit-based internships, volunteer docent positions, paid internships, and on occasion, the permanent position of Museum Coordinator.

4) Professional success of graduates of the Anthropology program. The Anthropology Program has always informally tracked its graduates, but is now making a more concerted and systematic effort to do so.

Program Director end-of-semester meeting with graduating seniors.

Anthropology Program Evaluation survey for graduating seniors.

Millennium program for tracking alums.

Maintenance of a computer database of Anthropology alums that includes data on graduate school acceptance and attendance, employment history, and so forth in order to monitor the success of Anthropology graduates.

Interactive Alumni web page within the Anthropology Web site to encourage alumni who visit the site to contact the Program and provide information about their whereabouts, current employment, and so forth. This web site will also feature Anthropology alumns to show current and potential future majors what graduates of the Program are doing with their Anthropology degrees and what they might do with theirs. Click here to see the alumni page.

In response to feedback from these various assessment mechanisms, the Anthropology Program is responding with curriculum revisions as follows:

1) Participating in the Rhetoric Associates and Undergraduate Teaching Fellows Programs to provide advanced training for Anthropology majors who participate in the programs and to provide extra, often remedial, assistance for students in lower division courses who interact with these student professionals.

2) Adding new courses designed to better prepare students for graduate school, the job market, and life in general (e.g., Applied Anthropology course, quantitative course in cultural anthropology).

3) Deleting (or closely monitoring for future deletion) courses that through measures of attendance and student feedback (formal and informal evaluations) have proven unsuccessful, or

4) Restructuring/refocusing content of courses that faculty consider essential but that have traditionally had low enrollments. Modifications reflect feedback from faculty and students through formal and informal student evaluations, Anthropology faculty meetings, student performance, and so forth.

5) Reorganizing “Structured Electives” to ensure that majors acquire the knowledge and skills in the three subdisciplines of Anthropology (archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology) deemed essential by faculty for recognition as an Anthropology Baccalaureate.

6) Reducing and restructuring senior Capstone courses to ensure that all Anthropology majors have a comparable and equally challenging academic experience, regardless of emphasis (archaeology, biological anthropology, cultural anthropology). In response to faculty observations that Capstone courses are often selected based on expediency rather than appropriate course content, green sheet revisions and academic advisement are being modified to ensure students are guided towards appropriate capstone.

7) Planned increase in major course requirements from 33 to 39 credits (and B.S. requirements from 6 to 9 credits) to better educate our students and prepare them for graduate school and/or the job market upon graduation.