School of Science Departmental Use of Assessment for Program Improvements


The Biology Department has improved the split capstone course to better illustrate the department’s dedication to continual improvement of student learning.  The department has offered a split capstone course for a number of years.  The first part, Introduction to Research, is taken in the first semester of the sophomore year and students are introduced to the concept of research, grant-writing, and scientific publication.  These elements have always been an integral part of student training, but this course highlights the skills and knowledge base necessary for professional work.  The department uses many practice techniques, such as mock review panels to familiarize students with the concept of grant writing.  The students have been encouraged to perform research on their proposals with the aid of a faculty mentor and to use the final capstone course, Senior Seminar, during their senior year to present their findings.  Exit interviews have revealed a disconnect between the goals of the senior seminar course and student perceptions of the usefulness of the course.  We are currently attempting to improve student perception as to the value of this course, and to strengthen it in many other ways: 

  1. using the course as an opportunity to include materials that might not have been covered in a specialized concentration (e.g., Pre-Health Professional students have not had the organismal training a field ecology student would have);
  2. preparing applications and résumés for future careers; and
  3. encouraging improved effort on assessment exams (MFAT, PRAXIS, CBASE) to encourage strong general education skills.

The department has improved advising based on information obtained from exit interviews with graduating seniors.  These interviews indicated the need for improved advising, but because of the heavy advising load of faculty members specializing in specific areas it was decided to produce videos of advisors talking about these specific concentrations.  The videos are listed on the multimedia webpage for the Biology Department.  Initial feedback has been very positive, and the students are using the videos for basic information and to plan their course schedules prior to setting an appointment with their major professor.


  • The Sociology Department will be conducting interviews for a new faculty person in the summer/fall 2013.  Criteria for the new hire are based on needs described by the PSLOs.  Specifically, we have observed that students score low in the area of institutions and statistics; therefore, our focus for the new hire is in this area. 
  • In addition, faculty reviewed the curriculum change of outsourcing statistics to the Math Department.  Faculty originally decided to do this because of historically low scores in statistics; however, this strategy has not yielded the desired results.  Faculty will now pursue curriculum change to teach statistics within the program as well as hire a faculty member whose expertise is in this area, all in an effort to increase student scores on this learning outcome.

Learning Services:

  • Our database, that includes all students from our courses, allows us to track student persistence through the curriculum and gives us feedback on subsequent course success; thus, allowing us to adjust our teaching and align course outcomes accordingly.


  • For JSU Field Schools' environmental education programs, utilizing semantic web activities with individual participants (and in some cases groups of participants) has allowed instructors to quantify measurable learning outcomes for programs that, in the past, were immeasurable.  This technique has provided credible evidence that participants benefit from informal education programs (i.e., the learning stations developed by JSU Field Schools for K-12 student field trips and public programs).  Sample attached to best show the techniques for measuring environmental education outcomes through semantic web activity.

*(Published by Byron, Copeland, Coulter, EECapacity, Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab, NAAEE—2014)

Social Work:

  • Two of the courses offered online reflect areas of knowledge in which students did not meet the benchmarks: SW 350 Research in Social Work and SW 380 Human Behavior and the Social Environment I.  Thus, for the 2014-2015 academic year, we will not offer those courses online in an attempt to improve pedagogy and to more closely monitor student learning.  After that year, we will closely examine student learning outcomes in these areas.
  • For the third area in which students did not meet benchmarks--Engage Policy Practice to Advance Well-Being and Deliver Services--faculty who teach the SW 332 Social Policy and Practice course have updated the textbook and required course activities in an attempt to improve student learning outcomes.