Unit: Physics & Astronomy
Program: Astrophysics (BS)
Degree: Bachelor's
Date: Mon Nov 27, 2017 - 4:23:10 pm

1) Institutional Learning Objectives (ILOs) and Program Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

1. Apply basic physical principles to astronomical situations

(1b. Specialized study in an academic field, 5. Proficiently communicate and disseminate information in a manner relevant to the field and intended audience.)

2. Formulate scientific problems in mathematical terms and find solutions.

(1a. General education, 2a. Think critically and creatively, 2b. Conduct research, 3a. Continuous learning and personal growth, 3c. Stewardship of the natural environment)

3. Design research projects using professional telescopes, archival data, or numerical simulations.

(2. Demonstrate understanding of research methodology and techniques specific to one’s field of study., 4. Critically analyze, synthesize, and utilize information and data related to one’s field of study., 5. Proficiently communicate and disseminate information in a manner relevant to the field and intended audience.)

4. Establish competence in focused areas of astrophysics.

(2. Demonstrate understanding of research methodology and techniques specific to one’s field of study., 5. Proficiently communicate and disseminate information in a manner relevant to the field and intended audience.)

5. Value the integrity of the scientific enterprise.

(1. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge in one or more general subject areas related to, but not confined to, a specific area of interest., 1b. Specialized study in an academic field, 5. Proficiently communicate and disseminate information in a manner relevant to the field and intended audience., 2c. Communicate and report, 7. Interact professionally with others., 3d. Civic participation)

2) Your program's SLOs are published as follows. Please update as needed.

Department Website URL: manoa.hawaii.edu/astronomy
Student Handbook. URL, if available online:
Information Sheet, Flyer, or Brochure URL, if available online: manoa.hawaii.edu/astronomy/learning-objectives/
UHM Catalog. Page Number:
Course Syllabi. URL, if available online:

3) Please review, add, replace, or delete the existing curriculum map.

Curriculum Map File(s) from 2017:

4) For your program, the percentage of courses that have course SLOs explicitly stated on the syllabus, a website, or other publicly available document is as follows. Please update as needed.


5) Did your program engage in any program learning assessment activities between June 1, 2015 and October 31, 2017?

No (skip to question 16)

6) What best describes the program-level learning assessment activities that took place for the period June 1, 2015 to October 31, 2017? (Check all that apply.)

Create/modify/discuss program learning assessment procedures (e.g., SLOs, curriculum map, mechanism to collect student work, rubric, survey)
Collect/evaluate student work/performance to determine SLO achievement
Collect/analyze student self-reports of SLO achievement via surveys, interviews, or focus groups
Use assessment results to make programmatic decisions (e.g., change course content or pedagogy, design new course, hiring)
Investigate curriculum coherence. This includes investigating how well courses address the SLOs, course sequencing and adequacy, the effect of pre-requisites on learning achievement.
Investigate other pressing issue related to student learning achievement for the program (explain in question 7)

7) Briefly explain the assessment activities that took place in the last 28 months.

1. Revised/condensed SLOs to include value statement.

2. Held end-of-semester meetings with ASTR instructors to identify gaps or shortcomings in current Astrophysics program, and assess overall program coherence.

3. One-on-one meetings with individual instructors to discuss courses in depth.

8) What types of evidence did the program use as part of the assessment activities checked in question 6? (Check all that apply.)

Artistic exhibition/performance
Assignment/exam/paper completed as part of regular coursework and used for program-level assessment
Capstone work product (e.g., written project or non-thesis paper)
Exam created by an external organization (e.g., professional association for licensure)
Exit exam created by the program
IRB approval of research
Oral performance (oral defense, oral presentation, conference presentation)
Portfolio of student work
Publication or grant proposal
Qualifying exam or comprehensive exam for program-level assessment in addition to individual student evaluation (graduate level only)
Supervisor or employer evaluation of student performance outside the classroom (internship, clinical, practicum)
Thesis or dissertation used for program-level assessment in addition to individual student evaluation
Alumni survey that contains self-reports of SLO achievement
Employer meetings/discussions/survey/interview of student SLO achievement
Interviews or focus groups that contain self-reports of SLO achievement
Student reflective writing assignment (essay, journal entry, self-assessment) on their SLO achievement.
Student surveys that contain self-reports of SLO achievement
Assessment-related such as assessment plan, SLOs, curriculum map, etc.
Program or course materials (syllabi, assignments, requirements, etc.)
Other 1: Primary evidence from detailed discussion/reflection with faculty teaching courses.
Other 2:

9) State the number of students (or persons) who submitted evidence that was evaluated. If applicable, please include the sampling technique used.

Net enrollment in courses assessed is limited (N < 50).  Instructors provided feedback and reflection on entire classes.

10) Who interpreted or analyzed the evidence that was collected? (Check all that apply.)

Course instructor(s)
Faculty committee
Ad hoc faculty group
Department chairperson
Persons or organization outside the university
Faculty advisor
Advisors (in student support services)
Students (graduate or undergraduate)

11) How did they evaluate, analyze, or interpret the evidence? (Check all that apply.)

Used a rubric or scoring guide
Scored exams/tests/quizzes
Used professional judgment (no rubric or scoring guide used)
Compiled survey results
Used qualitative methods on interview, focus group, open-ended response data
External organization/person analyzed data (e.g., external organization administered and scored the nursing licensing exam)

12) Summarize the results of the assessment activities checked in question 6. For example, report the percent of students who achieved each SLO.

Assessment revealed issues with overall program structure and level of preparation of students:

  1. Poor understanding of differential equations (not consistently presented in calculus sequence).
  2. Significant and limiting lack of programming skills.
  3. Limited knowledge of basic astronomy among junior-level students.
  4. Inadequate preparation for senior-level stellar astrophysics course.
  5. Insufficient emphasis on research experince prior to senior year.

13) What best describes how the program used the results? (Check all that apply.)

Assessment procedure changes (SLOs, curriculum map, rubrics, evidence collected, sampling, communications with faculty, etc.)
Course changes (course content, pedagogy, courses offered, new course, pre-requisites, requirements)
Personnel or resource allocation changes
Program policy changes (e.g., admissions requirements, student probation policies, common course evaluation form)
Students' out-of-course experience changes (advising, co-curricular experiences, program website, program handbook, brown-bag lunches, workshops)
Celebration of student success!
Results indicated no action needed because students met expectations
Use is pending (typical reasons: insufficient number of students in population, evidence not evaluated or interpreted yet, faculty discussions continue)
Other: Restructured program requirements to (a) provide alternatives to senior-level stellar astrophysics course, and (b) enable students to start and gain credit for research before senior year.

14) Please briefly describe how the program used the results.

1.  We are introducing numerical computing in required 200-level Astrophysics courses.  ASTR 241 is using spreadsheets to numerically solve differential equations for physical systems (eg, orbital motion, structure of Sun), and the catalog description has been changed to reflect this.  ASTR 242 will introduce students to Python programming, algorithmic computing, and numerical simulation.

2.  We are using pre-tests to better assess the abilities fo students entering the ASTR 241/242 sequence, and actively looking to coordinate this practice with subsequent courses.

3.  Program requirements for capstone research projects have been changed: instead of taking 6 credits of ASTR 494, students will take 4 credits of ASTR 399 and 2 credits of ASTR 494.  This enables students to begin research before their senior year via ASTR 399, while ASTR 494 is retained as a WI seminar course focusing on production of a senior paper.

4.  ASTR 423 has been made an elective, instead of a required course.  The number of upper-division electives required for the degree has been increased from 1 to 2.

5.  Although not formally required by the program, prospective Astrophysics students are advised to take a broad survey course in Astronomy (eg, ASTR 110) early in their studies.

15) Beyond the results, were there additional conclusions or discoveries? This can include insights about assessment procedures, teaching and learning, and great achievements regarding program assessment in this reporting period.

None to report.  We're short-handed, so focused on basic necessities.

16) If the program did not engage in assessment activities, please explain.