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Philosophy

College or Campus: College of Arts and Sciences

Student Learning Outcomes

UNDERGRADUATE

B.A. in Philosophy

  1. Undergraduate philosophy majors will be able to demonstrate historical and technical knowledge that is central to the discipline of philosophy, including knowledge of core concepts, distinctions, theories, argumentative techniques, movements, and influential figures, within the core fields of aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and social & political philosophy.
  2. Undergraduate philosophy majors will be able to reason clearly and carefully, employing the principles of logic to construct cogent arguments in both speech and writing. Their capacity to reason clearly and carefully will be manifest in their use of a) deductive reasoning skills, wherein the conclusion is embedded in the conditions that are known, given, or accepted, and b) inductive reasoning skills, wherein one must reason beyond the conditions that are known, given, or accepted.
  3. Undergraduate philosophy majors will be able to carefully and insightfully analyze arguments and rhetoric expressed in various media, including print, television, radio, and social media.
  4. Undergraduate philosophy majors will be able to speak and write clearly and cogently.
  5. Undergraduate philosophy majors will be able to think creatively and independently, exploring possibilities beyond those entrenched in prevailing opinion and practice. This creativity and independence are evident in the major’s speech and writing, neither of which is confined to the recitation of prevailing opinion. This creativity and independence are also evident in the major’s ability to rigorously analyze the rhetoric encountered in various media, an ability that liberates the major from being a prisoner to common patterns of fallacious reasoning. Finally, this creativity and independence are also evident in the students’ use of inductive reasoning skills to make inferences that move beyond conditions that are known, given, or accepted.

Pre-Professional B.A. Tracks in Philosophy

Pre-Law

In addition to the learning objectives detailed above, pre-law track majors will be able to identify, use appropriately, and discuss in an informed manner the main concepts, theories, movements and figures that have dominated philosophical discussions of law, society and the state.

Pre-Theology

In addition to the learning objectives detailed above, pre-theology track majors will be able to identify, use appropriately, and discuss in an informed manner the main concepts, theories, movements, and figures, prominent in philosophical discussions of the major world religions, with particular emphasis on the Abrahamic Traditions of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, the traditions that have informed the philosophical sub-field of philosophy of religion.

GRADUATE

M.A. in Philosophy

  1. Philosophy M.A. graduates  will be able to demonstrate historical and technical knowledge that is central to the discipline of philosophy, including knowledge of core concepts, distinctions, theories, argumentative techniques, movements, and influential figures, within the core fields of aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and social & political philosophy.
  2. Philosophy M.A. graduates will be able to reason clearly and carefully, employing the principles of logic to construct cogent arguments in both speech and writing. Their capacity to reason clearly and carefully will be manifest in their use of a) deductive reasoning skills, wherein the conclusion is embedded in the conditions that are known, given, or accepted, and b) inductive reasoning skills, wherein one must reason beyond the conditions that are known, given, or accepted.
  3. Philosophy M.A. graduates will be able to speak and write clearly and cogently.
  4. Philosophy M.A. graduates will be able to think creatively and independently, exploring possibilities beyond those entrenched in prevailing opinion and practice. This creativity and independence are evident in the graduate’s speech and writing, neither of which is confined to the recitation of prevailing opinion. This creativity and independence are also evident in the major’s ability to rigorously analyze the rhetoric encountered in various media, an ability that liberates the major from being a prisoner to common patterns of fallacious reasoning. Finally, this creativity and independence are evident in the student’s use of inductive reasoning skills to make inferences that move beyond conditions that are known, given, or accepted.
  5. Philosophy M.A. graduates will be able to conceive, research, and write substantial philosophical essays of the sort published in professional philosophy journals.
  6. Philosophy M.A. graduates will be able to present clearly the results of their research in presentations of the sort that occur at professional philosophical conferences and colloquia.

 

Assessment Plan

UNDERGRADUATE

The philosophy department conducts assessment of its major programs through a culminating assessment and a post-graduation assessment. The culminating assessment will be administered in the senior seminar and will include direct methods of assessment (a core competency test, a research paper, and a public presentation of one’s research paper) and an indirect assessment (an exit interview). The post-graduation assessment consists of the indirect method of tracking the professional success of majors after graduation. These areas of direct and indirect assessment of student learning are described more fully below.

Culminating Assessment

The following assessment tools are designed to monitor the extent to which students who complete the major program are achieving the department’s general learning objectives.

Core Competency Assessment

An important part of an undergraduate philosophy major is a) gaining knowledge of important concepts, distinctions, theories, movements, and figures within philosophy and its history, and b) cultivating critical reasoning skills. Student outcomes in these two areas are measured by an exam consisting of thirty multiple choice questions on the following philosophical sub-fields: Logic and Critical Thinking, Ethics, Aesthetics, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Social and Political Philosophy, Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, and Modern Philosophy.

A test bank has been compiled including at least ten questions in each area for a total of eighty potential questions. A given year’s core competency test consists of thirty test bank questions, including at least one question from each area. Since the test will be computer graded, the questions will be multiple choice, with each question having no more than five possible answers. The test is administered in PHIL 4901 (The Senior Seminar) and, for the sake of comparison, at the beginning of at least one section of our introductory course, PHIL 1010 (Fundamentals of Philosophy), offered in the same year.

As of 2018, students in the pre-law and pre-theology tracks will have a fifteen-question addendum to their tests focusing on questions relevant to their specific tracks; thus, the test for pre-law and pre-theology track students will consist of 45 total questions.

Alignment of Core Competency Assessment and Major Learning Outcomes.

The core competency test includes questions relevant to learning outcomes 1, 3, and 5; and, where appropriate, also includes supplemental questions relevant to the additional expertise expected of pre-law and pre-theology track majors in their respective areas.

Learning Outcome 1. Since the test includes questions on all the areas mentioned in learning outcome 1, it directly measures student learning in these areas.

Learning Outcome 3. The questions that assess mastery of logic test students’ acquisition of skills essential to the realization of learning outcome 3, “Undergraduate philosophy majors can carefully and insightfully analyze arguments and rhetoric expressed in various media, including print, television, radio, and social media.” Also, since the logic portion of the core competency test includes questions that engage arguments and rhetoric in popular media, the test directly measures the major’s achievement of learning outcome three.

Learning Outcome 5. The core competency test measures a major’s capacity for creative and independent thought with two sorts of questions. First, there are specific questions in the history of philosophy that track important moments in which philosophers creatively engaged the world-views of their predecessors and contemporaries, developing innovative concepts, principles, and theories that advanced beyond the dominant intellectual tradition in which they were working. These questions in the history of philosophy align with learning outcome 5 in that they assess the majors’ recognition of the fact that philosophy as a discipline is committed to critically evaluating and creatively responding to the concepts, principles and theories that define one’s dominant culture. Second, there are questions that test the student’s ability to use logic to evaluate arguments, including arguments in popular media, where this skill liberates the major from culturally prevalent patterns of fallacious reasoning and thus correlates with a major’s capacity to be a creative and independent thinker. Third, there are questions that test a students’ understanding of the principles of inductive reasoning where the latter sort of reasoning involves making creative inferences that go beyond conditions that are known, given, or accepted.

Pre-law and pre-theology track learning outcomes. The core competency test for these students includes 15 supplemental questions designed to assess student learning of the main concepts, theories, movements, and figures within the respective philosophical sub-discipline.

Research, Writing, and Speaking Assessment

In PHIL 4901, the senior seminar, students will be guided through the composition of a professional philosophical essay, submit an e-portfolio reflecting the various steps of the process, and present the results of their research in a mini-conference. Students will thereby further refine the cogency and clarity of their research, writing, and oral presentation skills.

Schedule:

  1. Selection of a topic. (Due week two.) While general undergraduate majors may select any philosophical topic, it is expected that pre-law track students and pre-theology track students normally select a topic in the philosophy of law and philosophy of religion respectively.
  2. Results of a literature search. (Due week three.)
  3. Compilation of an annotated bibliography. (Due week five.)
  4. Thesis statement and outline of the central argument of the paper. (Due week seven.)
  5. First Draft of Paper. (Due week nine.)
  6. Two versions of a second draft: a. one in which the changes are evident through Word’s track changes function; and b. one in which the changes have been accepted. (Due week eleven.)
  7. A mini-conference in which students present their papers to a public audience. (This will take place during the final two to three session of the class, depending on the number of students enrolled.)
  8. Final Draft of Paper. (Due on the day and time scheduled for the final exam and in place of the final exam.)

When the student submits the final draft of the paper, she or he will also compile and submit an e-portfolio including items 1-6 and 8.

Alignment of Research, Writing and Speaking Assessment and Major Learning Outcomes.

The research, writing, and speaking assessment measures achievement in learning outcomes 2, 4, and 5. It also partially measures learning outcomes 1 and 3. It also assesses the achievement of the learning outcomes specific to the pre-law and pre-theology tracks.

Learning outcomes 2, 4, and 5 . These learning outcomes are among the explicit criteria for the evaluation of student papers and presentations; thus, the paper and presentation assess directly the degree to philosophy majors are achieving these outcomes. The department uses a rubric for evaluating the final research paper and presentation in the senior seminar where this rubric directly measures the student’s achievement of learning outcomes 2, 4, and 5.

Learning Outcomes 1 and 3. The final paper and presentation also provide partial evidence of outcome 1; however, the evidence is only partial since the papers and presentations are on appropriately focused topics and thus do not engage all the topics specified in outcome 1. As there is no requirement that student papers or presentations engage arguments and rhetoric in popular media, this assessment tool does not align inevitably with outcome 3.

Pre-law and pre-theology track learning outcomes.  The research papers and presentations of pre-law and pre-theology students assess the major learning outcomes in the same manner as that described in the two paragraphs immediately above. In addition, since pre-law track students and pre-theology track students normally select a topic in the philosophy of law and philosophy of religion respectively, the final paper and presentation assess their ability to research, write, and speak in a philosophically informed manner on a specific topic within their major track. It thus will provide partial assessment of the learning outcomes specific to their respective track.

Summary Statement on Alignment.

The two direct methods of assessing the major—the core competency test and the senior seminar research paper and presentation—jointly assess the majors’ achievement of all the department of philosophy’s five learning outcomes as well as the learning outcomes specific to the pre-law and pre-theology tracks.

Exit Interviews

The department has instituted exit interviews for its graduating majors. At these interviews the seniors are asked to reflect on what they perceive as the strengths and weaknesses of the program and to make recommendations on potential improvements. They are also asked to reflect on the five major learning outcomes and the extent to which they believe they have progressed in these areas. These interviews will be carried out in the Senior Seminar (PHIL 4901).

Post-Graduation Assessment

Placement

The chair of the department and office manager will track student success in placement into graduate programs in philosophy, law school, divinity school or seminary, medical school, and graduate programs in other academic fields. In addition, the office manager tracks the nature of the employment secured by students who move directly from the bachelor’s degree into the workforce.

Post-Placement Performance

The chair of the department and office manager will use individual outreach by e-mail and social media in an attempt to stay in touch with graduates to a) track their success in the aforementioned academic pursuits (finding out, for instance, how many complete the program of academic or professional study they entered after graduation) and b) track the career trajectories of those who entered the workforce immediately post-graduation or after completing graduate or professional school.  

GRADUATE

M.A. in Philosophy

The philosophy department conducts assessment of the M.A. program’s success in achieving its learning outcomes in the following three ways: a) the ongoing assessment provided by the student’s performance in coursework, b) the culminating assessment provided by a thesis requirement, and c) the assessment provided by students’ success in achieving placement into graduate and professional programs and their performance post-graduation. The ongoing assessment and culminating assessment are direct methods, with the former consisting of the evaluation conducted in individual coursework and the latter consisting of the creation of an M.A. thesis and a public presentation and defense of the thesis. The post-graduation assessment consists of the indirect method of tracking the professional success of majors after graduation. These areas of direct and indirect assessment of student learning are described more fully below.

Direct Methods of Assessment and their Alignment with Learning Outcomes
Ongoing Assessment

In their 33 hours of required graduate coursework, philosophy M.A. students are assessed via the following activities:

  1. Seminar Discussion. The quality of students’ in-class discussion is assessed with respect to whether it reflects their having done the assigned reading with care and their having the ability to discuss philosophy cogently and in language appropriate to the discipline. This aligns with learning outcomes 1-4.
  2. Class Presentations. The quality of students’ in-class presentations are assessed with respect to whether they reflect i) their understanding of technical philosophical material as evident in the ability to translate this material into a sustained, coherent presentation and ii) their ability to respond appropriately to questions about their presentations. This assessment aligns with learning outcomes 1-4 and 6.
  3. Exams. Both take home and in-class exams are used to assess whether the students have mastered a specific set of substantive issues and/or technical skills. This assessment aligns with learning outcomes 1-4.
  4. Research Papers. The students’ progress toward becoming professionals in the field is assessed by their ability to conceive, research, and compose a professional essay on a topic within the subject matter of the class. This assessment aligns most obviously with outcome 5; however, it also aligns with outcomes 1- 4.

The teacher of record for a given graduate course assigns a final grade to each student on the basis of the student’s performance on some combination of a – d just listed. Students are required to maintain a 3.0 g.p.a. for successful completion of the program.

Statement on Alignment. Since students are exposed to assessment via each of a – d on numerous occasions in completing their coursework, the assessment provided by a student’s successful completion of coursework aligns extensively with all six program learning outcomes. Moreover, given that the program has coursework distribution requirements ensuring that students are exposed to several major subfields of philosophy and historical periods, taken collectively the successful completion of all the required coursework aligns with the student’s achieving learning outcome 1 across a wide range of topics and eras central to the discipline of philosophy.

Culminating Assessment.

Thesis. The thesis, required of all students, is a crucial capstone experience that measures the students’ progress towards becoming professional philosophers capable of conducting independent and original research in philosophy. A student’s progress in writing a professional philosophical essay is reviewed by the thesis committee (a director and two additional committee members) which evaluates the thesis on the basis of a) the appropriateness of the topic, b) the thoroughness of the literature review, c) the accuracy of the engagement with the literature, d) the tenability of the argumentation, e) the clarity of the thesis both with respect to expression and organization, and f) the originality of the thesis. In addition to evaluating the thesis as a piece of written work, the student’s philosophical ability is assessed at an oral defense in which the committee critically engages the student in order to evaluate her or his capacity to defend her or his thesis in a clear, cogent, and philosophically informed way.

Statement on alignment. The thesis and its defense align primarily with learning outcomes 5 and 6; however, they also align (albeit only partially) with learning outcomes 1-4.

Indirect Methods of Assessment: Post-Graduation Assessment

Placement

The chair of the department, graduate chair, and office manager attempt to track student success in placement into graduate programs in philosophy, law school, divinity school or seminary, medical school, and graduate programs in other academic fields. In addition, they also track the nature of the employment secured by students who move directly from the bachelor’s degree into the workforce.

Post-Placement Performance

The chair of the department, graduate chair, and office manager will use individual outreach by e-mail and social media to stay in touch with graduates to a) track their success in the aforementioned academic pursuits (finding out, for instance, how many complete the program of academic or professional study they entered after graduation) and b) track the career trajectories of those who entered the workforce immediately post-graduation or after completing graduate or professional school.  

Exit Interviews

Though it is not, strictly speaking, a way of assessing the extent to which students have achieved learning outcomes 1-6, the department conducts exit interviews for its graduating MA students. At these interviews—conducted by the chair of the department—the students are asked to reflect on what they perceive as the strengths and weaknesses of the program and to make recommendations on potential improvements. They are also asked to reflect on the program’s six learning outcomes and the extent to which they believe they have progressed in these areas. In addition, they are asked for their assessment of the advising they received in the program.

 

Evidence of Student Learning

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Use of Student Learning Evidence

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