Student Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcome I:

Environmental Science Ph.D. students will demonstrate knowledge of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science such that they are aware of a wide range of environmental concerns beyond the boundaries of a particular discipline.

Assessment Method:
The command of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental science is evaluated through comprehensive oral examinations administered after 80% of coursework has been completed and after completion of the dissertation, respectively. Individual graduate faculty committees administer examinations. The student's advisor maintains a record of questions asked, which ones are answered correctly, and to what level (e.g., partially or completely). A written comprehensive examination is also administered after 80% of coursework has been completed. All examinations are conducted and graded by the student's graduate committee and each student must pass each examination (Grade of C or better and approved by a 4/5 vote of the graduate committee). Results are conveyed to the program director and the graduate school, and are kept on file in the director's office. The program director serves as an ex-officio member of each examination committee for quality control.

Results:
Students have performed well on oral and written examinations, and all students have passed these exams since the beginning of the program.

Action Plan for 2005-06 Based on Results:
The Environmental Sciences Executive Committee will continue to monitor examination results. The program director will continue to evaluate individual examinations to ensure consistency.

Learning Outcome II:

All Environmental Science Ph.D. students will develop abilities to apply critical thinking skills to refine a hypothesis based on experimental data and to effectively communicate results in both oral and written form.

Assessment Method:
Abilities to apply critical thinking skills to refine a hypothesis based on experimental data and to effectively communicate results are evaluated by graduate faculty committees when reviewing dissertations, and by the faculty advisor when students present research findings during required seminars at the end of their programs. Students are assigned a grade on the seminar based on an evaluation of their presentation by their faculty advisor.

Results:
Critical reviews of dissertations and seminars have indicated that most Ph.D. students have mastered critical thinking skills and can effectively communicate results. Most students receive a grade of “A” on seminars, and many have gone on to publish portions of their dissertation in scientific peer-reviewed journals.

Action Plan for 2005-06 Based on Results:
The Environmental Sciences Executive Committee will continue to evaluate approaches to this learning outcome and determine if additional or modified assessment tools need to be developed.