Unit: Political Science
Program: Political Science (BA)
Degree: Bachelor's
Date: Mon Oct 08, 2012 - 3:30:38 pm

1) Below are your program's student learning outcomes (SLOs). Please update as needed.

1.Learn to think politically. Comprehending that all social, economic, and cultural processes are also political is a crucial learning outcome. That comprehension creates knowledgeable citizenry capable of acting on policy decisions and conduct. Students learn that the disciplinary boundaries that inform our comprehension of societal phenomena, while useful in engendering and accumulating knowledge, can also obscure the systemic connections at work across the societal networks and process. How these connections are structured as well as preserved is a function of politics. Politics organizes and condition life possibilities and choices for citizens. That no knowledge is innocent, but that all knowledge has consequences is key to the cognition of this learning outcome.
2. Make a good argument. Both political phenomena and scholarship generally require the capacity to reason well. To make a good political argument students need to learn to identify an argument, to distinguish strong and weak ways of making arguments, to analyze the arguments of others and to offer their own. Through the careful reading of important texts, scrutiny of available evidence, and teaching methods that exemplify good arguments and that engage students in the creation and testing of their own knowledge, the department emphasizes forms of expression key to academic excellence, participation in the public sphere, and lifelong learning.
3. Become critical of power. The study of power is a common interest across the discipline of political science. It is critical to the development of active citizens and lifelong learners. We expect our students to learn to identify the workings of power in various forms, including power in language, in institutions, and in daily life. The ability to analyze power effectively, to ask critical questions about authority and legitimacy, are central to a robust understanding of politics.
4. Communicate effectively in public settings. Learning to make a good argument and to think critically about power are key resources for effective public communication. Effective communication encompasses many types of media, including oral or written forms, electronic forms, visual or musical forms of expression. Our students will learn to speak and write clearly and effectively in a variety of social settings, including classrooms, informal groups, formal public presentations, published essays, fiction, letters to the editor, electronic discussions, and others.
5. Develop knowledge of fundamentals in political science. For the aforementioned SLOs to be cultivated and achieved, our students are systematically exposed to a range of seminal knowledge fundamental to political science. While all subfields, such as political theory and International relations, have their historically accumulated core knowledge base, they also rely on and transmit literatures common to their endeavor. UH Political Science Department’s “critical” disposition” acquires it depth and breath along with or in the company of, such seminal or fundamental knowledges. Its contributions to political science flows from a commitment to equipping undergraduate students with the knowledge regarding the discipline across history and geography.

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

Department Website URL: http://www.politicalscience.hawaii.edu/undergraduate-program.html
Student Handbook. URL, if available online: NA
Information Sheet, Flyer, or Brochure URL, if available online:
UHM Catalog. Page Number:
Course Syllabi. URL, if available online:
Other: We will talk about them at the fall orientation for majors, and we have an activity planned at that event to help students learn and think about them.

3) Select one option:

Curriculum Map File(s) from 2012:

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 assessment activities between June 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012? (e.g., establishing/revising outcomes, aligning the curriculum to outcomes, collecting evidence, interpreting evidence, using results, revising the assessment plan, creating surveys or tests, etc.)

No (skip to question 14)

6) For the period June 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012: State the assessment question(s) and/or assessment goals. Include the SLOs that were targeted, if applicable.

In the past few months, the undergrad chair has been working on creating an entrance survey for new majors. The major questions include getting a better idea of why our students choose the PoliSci major, what challenges or barriers to timely graduation do they experience, what kinds of advising are most helpful, and what are their perceived strengths and weaknesses with respect to our department SLOs. We have just begun piloting the survey, as of Oct 5, 2012. Some initial data has been gathered. These responses, along with consultation with the assessment office, will guide a revision of the entrance survey.

We have also begun working on an exit survey and interview, which we aim to have up and running by spring 2013. Our five SLOs are embedded within both of these survey instruments.

As an outgrowth of these processes, we are also having discussions in department meetings about our advising processes and our course offerings for undergraduates. These are directly informing decisions and programming.

7) State the type(s) of evidence gathered to answer the assessment question and/or meet the assessment goals that were given in Question #6.

At the program level, we have just begun to do student entrance and exit surveys (as described in the last question).

At the course level, faculty members use a range of assessments in their classes. Some examples include:

  • Weekly reaction papers that include identifying the argument of the readings and making a critical analysis.
  • Seminar-style and small group discussion. Includes student-led discussions.
  • Student presentations on selected readings.
  • Self and peer evaluations on presentations and projects.
  • Projects demondtrating mastery of course content.
  • Research papers.
  • Debates and other speeches.
  • Students are required to write a story and then reflect on their story using the ideas of at least three of the political theorists they have read. They have to turn in a one page sketch, a five page sketch, a rough draft, and then a final paper. Writing improves with the feedback and the practice.

8) State how many persons submitted evidence that was evaluated. If applicable, please include the sampling technique used.

Our entrance survey has only been up for a few days. We have had 27 responses so far. The survey was distributed to undergraduate majors through our undergrad listserve. We also announced the survey at our undergrad orientation and made a few laptop stations available so that students could take it right there and then.  Eventually, the entrance survey will be given to students when they declare the major, and a separate exit survey will be given to students when they are filling out their goldenrod form.

9) 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)
Other: Department undergraduate chair

10) 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)

11) For the assessment question(s) and/or assessment goal(s) stated in Question #6:
Summarize the actual results.

We have not yet gathered enough data from our survey to provide conclusive results.  The initial responses show that:

1. The number one reason students choose PoliSci as a major is: "Politics really intrigue me. I enjoy thinking, learning and talking about politics."

2. Students find one-on-one advising with a professor from whom they have taken a course as the most effective form of advising.

3. Students feel somewhat comfortable in, but with need for work and improvement on, their skills related to our SLOs. The skills they feel are most important to work on include: Confidence in participating in dialogue about political issues; Making strong, logical arguments; Asking critical questions about authority, legitimacy and power; and Communicating effectively in public settings. including classrooms, informal groups, formal public presentations, published essays, fiction, letters to the editor, electronic discussions, and others.

12) State how the program used the results or plans to use the results. Please be specific.

We have not yet been able to use the results fully, since the survey just opened. However, we will be using the results to guide our course offerings (which courses and at what day/time frame), to rethink our current system of advising, and to better structure the relationship between our 110 course and upper division course offerings.

In the coming months, we will also begin having discussions about student work samples, with the goal of developing a repository of exemplary student work for faculty to reference. This will help us to have a more consistent understanding of what exemplary and unacceptable student work looks like. By allowing us to share best practices, it will also help us to think about how we can improve assignments so that studentʻs produce better quality work. For example, we want to be clear about what good, political science writing looks like, and we want to see various kinds of evidence of students being able to make a strong argument and to communicate it effectively through different media.

13) Beyond the results, were there additional conclusions or discoveries?
This can include insights about assessment procedures, teaching and learning, program aspects and so on.

We are, in many ways, at the beginning of developing a program-level approach to assessment. The entrance and exit survey, as well as the undergraduate orientations and brown bag sessions we have planned for this year, are just baby steps. But we think they will provide a foundation for more rigorous and coordinated conversation about how to improve our program to better help students meet the SLOs and their other aspirations. 

14) If the program did not engage in assessment activities, please explain.
Or, if the program did engage in assessment activities, please add any other important information here.

Any feedback on how to get a better return rate on surveys would be appreciated. While we can capture new majors who are coming in to get their major declaration form signed, it is more difficult to capture transfer students or those who declare the major through the application process to the University and thus donʻt come in to the department for a signature.

Feedback on how to get faculty colleagues excited about programmatic assessment is also appreciated. How have other departments used program-level assessment to drive change processes that help students learn? How have other departments used exit interviews and been able to analyze and manage data? For us, we only have one faculty member working as undergrad chair on these issues. It seems overwhelming to think, for example, about how to do focus groups or other qualitative exit interviewing without a larger team to coordinate and execute such efforts.

How do other departments track the frequency at which they are offering focus designation courses?