Assessment

Core Curriculum Assessment

General Education Core Courses

UT Dallas requires that all students complete a general education Core Curriculum of 42 semester credit hours that serves as a broad foundation for the undergraduate degree. All students pursuing a baccalaureate degree at UT Dallas, regardless of their major, must meet these requirements. Click on the component areas below to see the component description and the Component Learning Objectives.

  • Communications (Chart 010) 6 hours

    The goal of the communications component of the Core Curriculum is to develop students' mastery in writing. Students must complete one course that requires them to learn to communicate effectively in clear and correct prose and to master several modes of writing, including descriptive, expository, narrative and self-expressive. Students must also complete a second writing-intensive course that may require them to master specific forms of writing tailored to the professional standards in their major field of study. All such courses require that students write, receive detailed feedback about, and revise at least 15 double-spaced pages.

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to write effectively using appropriate organization, mechanics, and style.
    • Students will be able to construct effective written arguments.
    • Students will be able to gather, incorporate, and interpret source material in their writing.
    • Students will be able to write in different ways for different audiences.
  • Mathematics (Chart 020) 6 hours

    The goal of the mathematical component of the Core Curriculum is to develop quantitatively literate citizens, capable of applying mathematical tools in the solution of real world problems. Familiarity with mathematical concepts and tools will enable persons to better cope with the complex financial, business, investing, and daily living problems encountered in the modern world. Students must master the formal principles of a college-level math (algebra or calculus at a higher level than high school algebra II) and one advanced field of mathematics beyond college math (logical reasoning and inference; the application of mathematical concepts; statistical methods; or formal principles of calculus or advanced algebra).

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to apply basic mathematical methods to modeling and solving real-world problems.
    • Students will be able to formulate and interpret basic mathematical information, numerically, graphically, and symbolically.
    • Students will be able to identify and explain the limits of mathematical models.
  • Natural Science (Chart 030) 9 hours

    The goal of the natural science component of the Core Curriculum is to develop an appreciation of the intricacies of the natural world and to be able to describe and explain some of the basic principles of how the natural world functions. A more scientifically literate population will better cope with understanding and acting on issues of a scientific nature that affect their lives. Each student must complete 9 credit hours of science courses, one of which must have a laboratory component.

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to describe laws, theories or findings basic to the science discipline.
    • Students will be able to apply scientific laws and principles of the discipline to arrive at problem solutions.
    • Students will be able to explain how experiments or observations validate or test scientific concepts.
  • Humanities (Chart 040) 3 hours

    The goal of the humanities component of the Core Curriculum is to examine a variety of literary, philosophical, and/or historical works drawn from the humanities and presented in an established context as examples of expressions of individual and human values. Students will develop proficiency in research, critical thinking, and writing through a series of assignments in which they will demonstrate analytical processes of thought as well as intellectual responses to designated materials. Students must complete at least one course that is representative of literature, philosophy, cultural studies.

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to examine and analyze a variety of works from the humanities, particularly those connected to literature and philosophy.
    • Students will be able to analyze and critically evaluate such works in the context of culture, society, and values as well as be able to compare and contrast the works with each other.
    • Students will be able to apply considered analysis and respond to works in the humanities as examples of human expression and aesthetic and philosophical principles.
  • Fine Arts (Chart 050) 3 hours

    The goal of the fine arts component of the Core Curriculum is to expose and illuminate at least one and possibly multiple forms of artistic expression, including, but not exclusive to, the traditional areas of the performing and visual arts. Through a series of discussions and examinations or reports and/or papers, students will demonstrate their critical awareness of the fine arts, a knowledge of the scope and variety of forms within specific artistic expressions, and an appreciation for the aesthetic principles that guide the creation and evaluation of art on both an individual and cultural level. Students must complete at least one course that is representative of one or more of the visual or performing arts.

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to examine and respond critically to a variety of artistic forms in at least one and possibly multiple forms of expression drawn from either the visual or performing arts or some combination thereof.
    • Students will be able to demonstrate an appreciation for artistic expression and ability to analyze specific works of art within a cultural or social context.
    • Students will be able to develop a critical approach to a given form or forms of art and will be able to articulate a response in an intelligent and informed manner.
  • American and Texas History (Chart 060) 6 hours

    The goal of the American and Texas history component of the Core Curriculum is to develop students' comprehension of the scope of the American and Texas historical development through an examination of social, institutional, political, and cultural evolution over specified periods of time in the history of the United States and the State of Texas. Students must complete two courses that address the history of the United States and/or the State of Texas.

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to identify, explain, and give examples of significant developments in American and/or Texas history over a defined span of time.
    • Students will be able to examine and analyze historical development through knowledge of institutional, social, cultural, and political evolution and change over a defined span of time.
    • Students will be able to interpret and evaluate the acceptability of historical evidence.
  • Government (Chart 070) 6 hours

    The objective of the government component is to increase students' comprehension of the history and evolution of political institutions, and the interrelationship between institutions such as executive and legislative; the role that political institutions play in the lives of citizens, and to demonstrate the relationship between citizens and political institutions including activities such as voting and interest group activity that provides awareness for citizen influence. This knowledge is designed to equip students to be better informed citizens capable of making important decisions in various political contexts. Students must complete two courses that include consideration of the Constitution of the United States and the constitutions of the states, with special emphasis on the Texas Constitution.

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to provide examples of and apply important theoretical and scholarly approaches to understanding state and national institutional behavior, citizen involvement and interaction between citizens and institutions of government.
    • Students will be able to analyze and appreciate historical trends in development of government institutions and their constitutional foundations.
    • Students will be able to identify, describe, and analyze various mechanisms of citizen political involvement.
  • Social and Behavioral Science (Chart 080) 3 hours

    The goal of the social and behavioral science component of the Core Curriculum is to increase students' knowledge of how social and behavioral scientists describe, explain, and critically analyze the behaviors and interactions among individuals, groups, institutions, cultures, events and ideas. Such knowledge will better equip students to understand themselves and the roles they play in addressing the issues facing humanity. Students must complete at least one course that is representative of the following social and behavioral sciences: anthropology, economics, geography, psychology, sociology, or women's studies.

    Component Learning Objectives:

    • Students will be able to describe major theoretical and scholarly approaches, empirical findings, and historical trends in the social/behavioral science discipline.
    • Students will be able to describe and apply basic research methods in the social/behavioral science discipline.
    • Students will be able to apply modes of critical thinking used in the social/behavioral science discipline.

Core Course Assessment

Faculty members who are teaching general education core courses develop clear and measurable assessments to evaluate students' success in achieving the student learning objectives created by the UT Dallas Core Curriculum Committee (CCC). The Office of Assessment provides workshops, consultation, and direct support to faculty who teach general education core courses and their home departments. Contact us for more information or to arrange a meeting.

Creating a Core Course Assessment Plan

The UT Dallas Core Curriculum Committee (CCC) has created component learning objectives for the eight component areas of the general education core curriculum. Faculty members who are teaching general education core courses evaluate students' success toward meeting these measurable learning outcomes and use the findings to improve courses. Completed on a cyclical basis, comprehensive core curriculum assessment reports help gauge the effectiveness of general education at UT Dallas and formulate appropriate responses and action plans. The following are suggestions from the 2005 Core Curriculum Committee for creating a compliant core curriculum plan.

  • Learning Objectives
    • Learning objectives specify the knowledge and skills from the course's curriculum that must be met on the way to attaining the goals of the course. Learning outcomes should reflect clear, measurable student outcomes.
    • Each course must address all the blue-line Core Curriculum Objectives in the Assessment Tool
    • Your assessment plan must contain at least two (2) Objectives/Assessments Activities for each CCC blue-line objective. There are two ways to handle the learning objectives for these 2+ rows. If you have two or more course-specific learning objectives (as listed in our course syllabus) that conceptually address the CCC objective, then they can be listed one each per row. Alternatively, you can duplicate the general CCC objective for each of the rows. It is important to know that you might have many more objectives on your syllabus than reflected in this assessment of your class. (Buhrmester, 2007)
  • Selecting Success Criteria

    In writing assessment criteria, threshold assessment criteria give you more detail of what an assessment task needs to show in order to demonstrate that the learning has been achieved.

    Conceptually, the Criterion of Success stipulates a) a threshold of success, and b) the proportion of students who must surpass the threshold in order to conclude that the course has met the learning objective.

  • Creating Measures

    The same assessment/score cannot be used to evaluate multiple objectives. For example, the overall grade from one exam cannot be used to evaluate two learning objectives, one about substantive knowledge and the other about research methods. The reason being, with only one numeric result, it would be impossible to determine whether the course was succeeding at one objective but failing at the other. You can, however, use the same type of assessment to evaluate multiple objectives. For example, it would be fine to use a subset of items from one exam to assess substantive knowledge while a separate subset of items from that exam is used to assess mastery of research methods.

    The logic of course evaluation is different from the logic of evaluating students (i.e., assigning student grades). Course evaluation answers the question “how well are the course's curriculum and learning activities doing at achieving the desired learning outcomes among students?” In contrast, student evaluation/grading answers the question “how well did a specific student achieve the desired learning outcomes?” The focus of the former is evaluating the curriculum and learning activities, whereas the focus of the later is evaluating individual differences in student performance.

    The confusing part is that these two types of “performance” are intertwined. One factor influencing student performance (in addition to individual capability and effort) is the effectiveness of the courses curriculum and learning activities. An important way to ascertain course “performance” depends on evaluating the proportion of students for whom the course succeeded in fostering the desired learning outcomes. If a low proportion of students achieved a learning objective, it could have been due to several factors: a) the course's learning activities were not appropriate to produce the desired outcomes; b) the learning objectives were unreasonably high; c) the students, taken as a group, were not capable of, or prepared to, benefit from the learning activities, or d) the students, taken as a group, were not exerting the effort needed to benefit from the courses learning activities. Deciding which factors, or combination of factors, are responsible for failing to achieve learning objectives involves ruling out, through empirical or logical analyses, alternative possibilities. For example, if I know my students as a group are bright and hardworking (perhaps based on high school grades, SAT's, performance in other college courses, and amount of time/effort devoted to studying for the class) then I can narrow the problem down to the learning activities, the learning objectives and/or the background preparation of the students as a group.

  • Examples of Direct Measures of Student Learning

    Each core course must include at least two direct measures for each learning outcome. Examples of Direct Measures of Student Learning:

    • End of semester projects, papers, presentations, performances, portfolios, or research
    • Exams -comprehensive exams, pre and posttests, national standardized tests, certification or licensure exams, or professional exams
    • Internships or practicum - evaluation of student knowledge and skills from internships, supervisors, faculty, or self-evaluations in which the student documents his or her own learning with a final report or presentation
    • Portfolios - reviewed by faculty members, professionals, visiting scholars, or industrial boards
    • Profession jurors or evaluators - to evaluate student projects, papers, portfolios, exhibits, performance or recitals
    • Intercollegiate Competitions - useful in assessing when students demonstrate knowledge or skills
    • Course - embedded assessments - projects, assignments, written work, reports, tests, or presentations
  • Examples of Indirect Measures of Student Learning
    • Exit interviews or student surveys
    • Faculty surveys
    • Final course grade
    • Alumni surveys
    • Surveys of employers
  • Sample Core Assessment Plans

Creating a Core Course Assessment Report

The core course assessment report is a culmination of assessment activities recorded throughout the duration of the course. The report describes the results and the analysis of the assessment activities. Additionally, the report states what actions are planned for improving learning outcomes as a result of the assessment. The following are suggestions from the 2005 Core Curriculum Committee for creating a compliant core curriculum report.

  • Results
    • When the results tab of AT6 is selected, notice that the Objective, Assessment Activity, and Success Criteria are prepopulated with the information entered under the plan tab. If any of those areas need to be edited, go back to the plan tab and make the changes in that area.
    • Results are the outcomes of the course learning objectives that were specified. The learning outcomes specified should have produced clear and measurable results. These results are the inputs to be used to inform the analysis of the outcomes. There are three options to choose from in the outcome section; Exceeded expectations, Met expectations, and Failed to meet expectations. Select one of these outcomes by clicking on the button next to the outcome listed.
    • The assessment plan contained at least two (2) Objectives/Assessments Activities for each CCC blue-line objective. The results section should discuss the outcome for each of these; were expectations met, exceeded, or not met (failed)? Additionally, this is where faculty provide the numerical results based upon your success criteria; i.e., 50% of the students exceeded 3 out of 5 criteria.
    • A list of what assessment items were collected and what scoring criteria was used. While specific questions or prompts are not required, this is the area that faculty describe the methods used to conduct the assessment.

    Example: First- and second-draft essays were graded using the following criteria:

    1. Student can compose complete sentences without using multiple fragments, fused sentences, and comma splices.
    2. Student demonstrates command of punctuation.
    3. Student demonstrates command of proper English vocabulary and usage.
    4. Student demonstrates ability to spell correctly.
    5. Student demonstrates command of subject/verb agreement.

    Assessment item was the entire paper; a table was kept for each assignment (one column for each assessment criteria, one row for each student) and problems or errors checked off as they were found in the paper. Any problems with these items meant the student did not satisfy the criteria; a couple of mistakes in punctuation, one error in subject-verb agreement, and one or two simple typing errors were permitted since proofreading errors may occur.

  • Analysis

    In writing the analysis, there are two subcategories to address; the influencing factors and the next action.

    1. The influencing factors are the reasons the faculty member thinks caused the students to exceed, meet, or fail to meet expectations for the learning outcome. The reasons can be varied; the class size was such that access to reserve materials prevented students from accessing them in a timely manner or, the class was still covering grammar and mechanics issues when the assignment was submitted and the primary problems were comma splices and misuse or nonuse of commas.
    2. The 'next action' section needs to answer the question, “based on these results, what will you do differently the next time you teach the course to improve the outcome?” This section is important because it is the reason for conducting the assessment. This could be as simple as recommending additional library resources, or reordering when assignments are due, or as complex as suggesting a curriculum change. The important consideration in this section is that it reflects the faculty member's thoughts on what action should be taken to improve student outcomes in this specific area given the results and influencing factors.
  • Overview

    AT6 will automatically compile an overview of the plan, results and analysis tabs which will be the completed report. Please review the overview to ensure that it captures what you want to express regarding the course assessment. If areas need to be edited, return to the appropriate tab, make the necessary edits, and return to the review page to ensure you are satisfied with the result.