Successful Assessment Grant Proposal: History

Focus: Professional development to support revision of learning outcomes and to design an integrated, cross-year assessment process


Project Information

Project title: HIS 1001 - Defining What It Means to "Think Historically"

Contact person: Jennifer Hart

Role/Position: Associate Professor


Phone: 313-577-2525

Department/Unit: History

Program name: BA History

Participating colleagues/collaborators: All History Department Faculty, Dr. David Pace (Indiana University)

Experience with assessment (for primary contact and each colleague/collaborator):

All faculty members of the undergraduate committee participate in assessment of undergraduate majors. As a member of the undergraduate committee for many years, Dr. Hart has been involved in this process as well as curricular redevelopment efforts to seek to make assessment possible within the department. Dr. Elizabeth Lublin is the Director of Undergraduate Studies, in charge of the Undergraduate Studies Committee and assessment for the BA program. Dr. Pace is a foundational scholar in the international scholarship on teaching and learning, a highly respected historian, and an expert pedagogue.

Reason for proposal:

Over the last several years, the Department of History has engaged in a reorganization of the curriculum for majors, creating a scaffolded set of skills articulated through learning outcomes and measured through assessments. The most direct product of these changes is the introduction of a HIS 3000 "Historian's Craft" course, which serves as a touchstone for students making their way through the program. The introduction of this course was motivated by observations by instructors that students were reaching the

Junior or Senior Research Seminar without sufficient experience to complete the necessary research and writing expected of graduating majors. In requiring the course of all majors, we seek to provide a more consistent experience, which guarantees at least basic training among majors, regardless of their other classroom experience. This course, then, is an important step in bringing to fruition the learning outcomes we claim that we wish to see in our majors. However, in introducing the course, the department temporarily set aside questions about how students are introduced to history and what skills they should have in hand when they enroll in the Junior or Senior Research Seminar. Among these questions are: If students are beginning the Junior or Senior Research Seminar unprepared for research after having taken intermediate- and upper-division courses, what skills are we teaching in those courses? Do our pedagogical approaches meet the needs of students? Do our courses reflect the curricular scaffolding now signaled through the major requirements? Can we take this opportunity, while we revise our curriculum and address the impact of general education reform to think about how to more effectively guide students through the process of mastering what it means to ''think historically?"

As with many other parts of the university, the current course numbering in the History Department is at least in part a reflection of the past two decades of curriculum development (since the institution of the current course numbering system) and the preferences of faculty, rather than any deliberate curricular or pedagogical scheme. There are exceptions to this: Faculty teaching African

American history, for example, have thought carefully about the sequencing of courses in that field and organized courses to build skill and knowledge as students make their way through the sub-field. Specific courses like labor history and the history of Detroit have been organized to address the range of skills and specializations among enrolled students. Newer course concentrations like digital history/history communication similarly reflect the scaffolding of skills in pedagogy and assessments employed as students move through this sequence of courses. Many history department courses are classified as either "surveys" (1000/2000-level courses) or "advanced courses" (3000-5000-level courses). This numbering system is further complicated by a logic of course numbering that aligned with the old general education curriculum, concentrated primarily in 1000-level survey courses. These issues are not unique to the Wayne State History Department. This form of course organization is common in departments across the country. In order to fully achieve the scaffolding built into the department's curricular map, we must engage in a reevaluation of these courses based on learning outcomes and assessment strategies.

Currently, members of the Undergraduate Studies Committee use rubrics to assess final student papers in HIS 3000 and the Junior Senior Research Seminar. We hope to integrate these individual assessments into a more systematic program assessment for the BA History degree. In particular, to assess the degree to which undergraduate history majors achieve program-level learning outcomes that capture how to "think historically," we need to more clearly articulate the learning outcomes for a new introductory HIS 1001 course, which can serve as the first in a 3-step course sequence (with HIS 3000 and the Junior or Senior Research Seminar) that would scaffold the major. We will then be able to use learning outcomes from HIS 1001, HIS 3000, and the Junior or Senior Research Seminar to craft a more thorough program-level assessment plan that will gather direct and indirect measures of student learning at the beginning, middle, and end of their progress to degree. By involving all faculty in this process, the department will be able to expand awareness of program-level assessment, which will inform expanded conversation about pedagogy within the department. Over the course of the next several years, we plan to use this program-level assessment to lay the foundation for course renumbering and curricular restructuring as we move forward with further phases of curricular reform.

Proposed actions:

We propose to involve all faculty in an assessment workshop led by Dr. David Pace of Indiana University. The workshop, which will take place on a Friday afternoon, will include two components. In the first half of the workshop, Dr. Pace will lead a conversation about program-level learning outcomes and ask faculty to complete learning goal inventories for the program broadly, as well as the three stages discussed above (introductory, intermediate, and advanced/capstone). In the second half, the

Undergraduate Committee and any interested faculty will take these learning goals inventories and work with Dr. Pace on developing a coherent set of learning outcomes for a new introductory HIS 1001 course and create a new assessment plan for the department that traces student progress across these three courses.

We hope to focus on two specific goals related to these broader issues in the proposed workshop:

  1. Develop agreed upon learning outcomes, course goals, and assessment rubrics for a new 1000-level "Introduction to Historical Thinldng" course, drawing on the learning goal inventories of Department faculty, the guidelines in the American Historical Association's Tuning Project, and best practice examples such as the HIS 101 course developed by colleagues at the University of Michigan.
  2. Create an assessment plan for the department's BA program that
  1. accounts for changes in the department's general education offerings, and
  2. reflects students' pathways through the scaffolded touchstone courses of the major (e.g. 1000-level "Introduction to Historical Thinking"; HIS 3000 "Historian's Craft"; HIS 5996/5993 "Junior or Senior Research Seminar")

This process is a pilot project. We intend this workshop to be the first but necessary step in a longer-term program assessment in order to fulfill the ever-changing needs of our students and the policies and practices of the university. In particular, we plan to use the assessment materials generated in this workshop to inform a process through which we will systematically review courses and course numbers to ensure that students are exposed to necessary skills development and content knowledge throughout the major. By doing this work together and reflecting on what we do in the classroom, we hope that this workshop also inspires conversations and reflection about what we do in already existing courses and where opportunities for improvement and growth may exist.

Expert support needed:

We propose to invite Dr. David Pace of Indiana University to the History Department for a curriculum and assessment workshop with all members of the faculty in Fall 2018. Dr. Pace is a pioneer in the scholarship on teaching and learning and a highly regarded teacher and researcher. His experience as an instructor in his own field of European history is complimented by his long experience in history pedagogy and teacher training. Dr. Pace is, in other words, especially qualified to help guide our department full of experienced instructors with diverse approaches to the discipline and the classroom in a collective conversation about the best path to implement and assess our curricular goals.


Funding request:

The bulk of the funds will go toward paying for Dr. Pace's visit:

Flight: $500

Ground Transportation: $150

Hotel: $350

Honorarium: $1000

Subtotal: $2,000

The remaining funds will pay for a working lunch for participating faculty:

Food: $395

Drinks: $118.52

Subtotal: $513.52

Total: $2,513.52


Deliverables, timeline, responsible parties:

  • Workshop: October 2018 (all faculty)
  • HIS 1001 syllabus presented to faculty: January faculty meeting (Jennifer Hart, Betsy Lublin, & Undergraduate Studies Committee)
  • Revised HIS 1001 syllabus submitted to CLAS for approval: February 15, 2019 (Jennifer Hart & Betsy Lublin)
  • Revised Program Assessment plan presented to faculty: March faculty meeting (Jennifer Hart, Betsy Lublin & Undergraduate Studies Committee)
  • Assessment of project impact: [Identify the metrics by which you will know actions have been carried out and have achieved results.]
  • A core group of faculty with produce a syllabus for the new HIS 1001 course, produced based on the learning outcomes and outline generated in the context of the workshop, will be presented to the faculty in early spring, feedback solicited, and final draft approved for submission as a new permanent course offering for Fall 2019.
  • The Undergraduate Committee will draft a new assessment plan, anchored by assessment of student learning in HIS 1001, HIS 3000, and the Junior Of Senior Research Seminar. Over the next year, the Undergraduate Committee will use these assessment rubrics as the basis of annual faculty conversadons about student progress. In Fall 2019, the Undergraduate Committee will use the data generated through the first year of comprehensive assessment to lead another faculty workshop on course renumbering and curricular reorganization.


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