Unit: Interdisciplinary Studies
Program: Interdisciplinary Studies (BA)
Degree: Bachelor's
Date: Thu Nov 12, 2009 - 9:27:20 am

1) List your program's student learning outcomes (SLOs).

The Interdisciplinary Studies Program (IS) is primarily an advising unit: students work closely with IS academic advisers in designing a proposal, which is an admissions requirement. We believe that the strength of our program is the interdisciplinary nature of the major. By allowing students to design programs with an area or problem focus, we help students to think creatively and to learn how to look at issues and problems from interdisciplinary perspectives. They learn to compare, contrast or synthesize different perspectives as they undertake their course of study.


The educational objectives in terms of student learning outcomes for IS majors are the following:

  1. to acquire knowledge and understanding in students’ chosen interdisciplinary field of study
  2. to develop skills in exploring interdisciplinary relationships
  3. to be able to communicate clearly both orally and in writing
  4. to develop critical thinking skills
  5. to develop problem-solving skills for life-long learning
  6. to develop skills of comparing, contrasting, differentiating, and synthesizing a variety of perspectives
  7. to develop an ability to follow problems across disciplinary boundaries.

NOTE: Question 4 below is not applicable. The IS Program offers only two courses per semester as it is a primarily academic advising unit. These courses are explicitly interdisciplinary in their conception and application, and they aim at developing critical thinking skills and interdisciplinary perspectives in students.

2) Where are your program's SLOs published?

Department Website URL: http://www.hawaii.edu/is
Student Handbook. URL, if available online:
Information Sheet, Flyer, or Brochure URL, if available online: NA
UHM Catalog. Page Number:
Course Syllabi. URL, if available online:

3) Upload your program's current curriculum map(s) as a PDF.

No map submitted.

4) What percentage of courses have the course SLOs explicitly stated on the course syllabus, department website, or other publicly available document? (Check one)


5) State the SLO(s) that was Assessed, Targeted, or Studied

In this year’s assessment report, we review a 2002-03 study and the subsequent actions taken by IS. In addition, we discuss the assessment of students’ IS proposals.

6) State the Assessment Question(s) and/or Goal(s) of Assessment Activity

Some of the goals of the 2002-03 study were to find out:

·         How useful was the academic preparation for their present or future career goals?

·         Would a combination of an interdisciplinary capstone project help them be better prepared?

·         What was the IS students’ level of satisfaction with the learning experience?

7) State the Type(s) of Evidence Gathered

Evidence gathered 2002-03

1) perceptions by alumni and current students using a questionnaire consisting of 18 Likert-scale questions and 10 short-answer questions

2) Portfolio of student work and a reflective narrative for current students

3) Interviews with current students

Evidence gathered—Ongoing

Students’ IS proposals (each student must submit a detailed proposal containing a narrative statement and course plan)

8) State How the Evidence was Interpreted, Evaluated, or Analyzed

Survey, portfolio, interviews (2002-03)

Quantitative and qualitative analysis of responses

IS proposal review & monitoring (ongoing assessment)

The proposals are reviewed by the IS Review Committee. The reviewer evaluates the proposal to see if the major coursework as well as the narrative statement meet program criteria. Students with weak proposals meet with their IS adviser for help in revising the proposal.

9) State How Many Pieces of Evidence Were Collected


120 (24%) alumni returned surveys out of 507 alumni contacted

92 (36%) enrolled students returned surveys out of 253 students contacted

IS proposal review & monitoring  (ongoing assessment)

Each prospective IS major submits an IS proposal before he/she can officially declare IS as a major. IS has 187 declared majors (Fall 2009). Student progress is then monitored throughout their IS degree.

10) Summarize the Actual Results

Survey results (2002-03)

Alumni results (selected results below; full report available from IS Program faculty):

·         Almost 74% of alumni agreed (7 and above on a 9-point Likert-scale) that the Interdisciplinary Studies Program developed problem-solving skills for life-long learning. 

·         Nearly 71% of alumni recorded a score of seven or above on a 9-point Likert-scale indicating that they felt the IS Program effectively helped them to open personal perspectives and assisted them in learning to value new viewpoints. 

·         Forty-five percent declared that a mandatory capstone course or common seminar course would be an advantage to their experience in IS.

Enrolled students’ survey results (selected results below; full report available from IS Program faculty)

·         Nearly 84% of enrolled students “strongly agreed” (scoring 7 or above on a 9-point Likert-scale) that the IS program developed problem-solving skills for life-long learning.

·         Nearly 88% of enrolled students agreed (scoring between 7 and 9 on the 9-point Likert-scale) that the IS Program taught them to value new viewpoints and opened their personal perspectives.

·         Forty-four percent of enrolled students commented that a mandatory capstone course or common seminar course would generally benefit their experience in IS.

Portfolio results (2002-03)

The criteria for reviewing the portfolios revolved around student-centered goals for the Interdisciplinary Studies coursework. We were able to obtain information about the students’ skills, knowledge, and development, quality of writing and critical thinking skills through a review of a comprehensive collection of work samples from the Interdisciplinary Studies coursework. The portfolios showed a considerable range of interdisciplinary sensitivity and revealed that there is a connection between the degree of interdisciplinarity and whether the program is problem-oriented or not. It also showed that the degree of interdisciplinary thinking by the student was shaped by the extent to which they were exposed to courses taught from an interdisciplinary perspective. The portfolio assessment strongly indicated that there is a connection between interdisciplinarity and critical thinking.

IS proposal review & monitoring (ongoing assessment)

IS advising is critical to help students learn strategies to see connections between disciplines that encompass their interest. They learn to create an academically coherent interdisciplinary major, to use effective strategies in creating, revising, and editing a final proposal, and to acquire the basics of interdisciplinary thinking by choosing courses from different departments which helps them develop an integrated perspective.

11) Briefly Describe the Distribution and Discussion of Results

2002-03 study

University of Hawai’i at Manoa administration; IS program faculty. 

IS proposal review & monitoring (ongoing assessment)

IS faculty advisors

12) Describe Conclusions and Discoveries

The response by students in our 2002-03 assessment study was valuable; both as a monitor of what aspects of the program needed attention as well as an indication of the success of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program.

That study suggested that our program lacked a sufficient sense of "community."  Although the individualized programs of students are, or could easily be grouped, e.g., "Criminology," "Human Relations and Organizations," "International Studies," into Social Sciences, there is no one course which all in that group take as a required course for their program of study. While taking courses in four or five departments as part of their inquiry is interdisciplinary, IS students sorely need courses which articulate (and demonstrate) an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving with special reference to the range of problems to be addressed by the particular interdisciplinary program, "Criminology," (say) versus "International Studies."  Such courses would also establish the relevant "communities" of inquiry and alleviate anxiety generated by the present more "individualist" arrangements. A mandatory capstone course or a methods course in interdisciplinary thinking is still on the books, but will require some extra resources for its realization.

13) Use of Results/Program Modifications: State How the Program Used the Results --or-- Explain Planned Use of Results

We have strengthened our advising process by making interdisciplinarity an important aspect of our advising process so students are exposed to a variety of perspectives.

With our two-person staff, we have not been capable of generating and teaching the necessary interdisciplinary courses, for example a methods course in Interdisciplinary Studies or a capstone seminar course. Currently, we are only offering two courses per semester that deal with interdisciplinary themes.

Our program was renamed from Liberal Studies to Interdisciplinary Studies to accurately reflect the program goals.

14) Reflect on the Assessment Process

All aspects of our 2002-03 formal assessment went well. If we were to conduct such a major assessment again, we would expand the portfolio part of the assessment to get more qualitative data regarding our program in terms of student learning outcomes. Unfortunately, we lack at present resources to conduct such a study.

15) Other Important Information


16) FOR DISTANCE PROGRAMS ONLY: Explain how your program/department has adapted its assessment of student learning in the on-campus program to assess student learning in the distance education program.

17) FOR DISTANCE PROGRAMS ONLY: Summarize the actual student learning assessment results that compare the achievement of students in the on-campus program to students in the distance education program.