Ph.D. Environmental Science: Assessment, Program Outcomes & Academic Audit

Ph. D. Environmental Science
Assessment Analysis & Improvements

Process for Analyzing & Using Assessment Results

  • Graduate committees, typically consisting of five faculty members with three representing either Biology or Chemistry depending on the student’s concentration, and two from Earth Sciences, Agriculture, or Sociology, ensure the quality of each student’s program.
  • The Environmental Sciences Ph.D. Program Executive Committee meets regularly to discuss the current and future status of the Program, ensure that the Program’s goals are being met, and to formulate potential modifications to the Program.
  • Policies, regulations, and curricular matters originate and are formulated by the graduate faculty of a particular program; principally, environmental sciences faculty from Biology or Chemistry.
  • Following approval by departmental faculty and the Executive Committee, changes are sent to the college curriculum committee and then, if approved, forwarded to the Graduate School Executive Committee for appropriate action.

Examples of Program Improvements

  • The Ph.D. Program in Environmental Science is continuing to grow. This growth is partially due to increased recognition of the program at both the regional and national level as a result of recruitment efforts.
  • Environmental science faculty often attend professional meetings for recruitment purposes.
  • We have consistently graduated students since 2001 and they have been successful in gaining employment. Their opinions of the program are assessed using an exit survey and results of the survey are reviewed by the Executive Committee to maintain the quality of the program and to ensure that program goals are being met.
  • In order to continually attract quality students, the Executive Committee has secured an increase in teaching assistantship stipends from $14,000 to $18,500 per year in an attempt to attract additional students.

 

 

Ph.D. Environmental Science
Program Outcomes, Assessment & Student Learning Outcomes

 Program Outcomes

Program Outcome I:

  • Demonstrate understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of environmental sciences such that students are aware of a wide range of environmental concerns beyond the boundaries of any single, specific discipline.
    • Assessment Method: 
Comprehensive Exams (usually third year of the program)

    • Student Annual Reports (December each year)


Program Outcome II:

  • Improve oral and written communication skills by giving technical presentations at symposia, conferences and similar venues where abstracts are peer-reviewed for acceptance.
  • Assessment Method:
 
    • Comprehensive Exams (usually third year of the program)

    • Student Annual Reports (December each year)

EVSPresentations assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Program Outcome III:

  • Improve written communication skills by submitting manuscripts to peer-reviewed publications such as scholarly journals, conference proceedings, books, or similar outlets.
  • Assessment Method: 

    • Comprehensive Exams (usually third year of the program)

    • Student Annual Reports (December each year)

EVSRefereedArticles assessment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Ph.D. Environmental Science
SACS Quality Assessment Plan - Graduate Level

 Southern Association of Colleges & Schools (SACS)

SACS EVS GraduateLevelChart1 REVISED 5 23 13 wb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ph.D. Environmental Science
Academic Audit

Program Academic Audit

EVS Self-Study Academic Audit Report (Password-Protected PDF File)

1. Learning Objectives

Met Not Met
1.1 The faculty completed a thorough and candid analysis of their process for developing learning objectives for the program, considering measurability, clarity and what students need to know.    
1.2 The faculty documented or proposed a process for develping learning objectives that are based on realistic and appropriate evidence.    
1.3 The faculty documented or proposed specific plans to take best practices and appropriate benchmarks into account in the analysis of learning objectives.    
1.4  The faculty clearly communicate program objectives to current and potential students, employers or other stakeholders.     
     

2. Curriculum & Co-Curriculum

   
2.1 The faculty completed a thorough and candid analysis of the extent to which they collaborate effectively on the design of curriculum and planned improvements which will reflect attained competencies in the outcome data.    
2.2 The faculty documented or proposed a plan for analyzing the content, format and sequencing of courses in terms of achieving program learning objectives with appropriate breadth and depth for the degree offered which allows for attainment of the degree in a timely manner.    
2.3 The faculty documented or proposed a plan for determining the soundness of and rationale for curriculum and co-curriculum based on appropriate evidence, including comparison with best practices where appropriate, and communicate these views to the student body.     
     

3. Teaching & Learning Processes

   
3.1 The faculty examined the extent to which there is focus on periodic, systematic review of the actual process of teaching and learning throughout the program.    
3.2 The faculty documented or proposed a plan that promotes the effective use of instructional methods and materials for achieving student mastery of learning objectives.     
3.3 The faculty analyzed the extent to which there is true, ongoing collaboration in the design and delivery of the teaching and learning processes of the program with reliance on best practices and resources beyong the confines of the program or department.    
3.4 There is a critical mass of faculty and students to promote a scholarly community and assure an appropriate group of peers.    
 3.5  Faculty/graduate student ratio, average course load, average thesis/dissertation load per faculty and distribution across department, and teaching evaluations evidence support of graduate teaching and learning processes.     
 3.6  The faculty documented or proposed a plan to inform students of course offerings and the provision of professional development activities and relevant courses to supplement departmental offerings in a timely fashion.    
3.7  The faculty documented or proposed a plan to ensure that all students are adequately oriented, advised, mentored and socialized within the discipline and the larger graduate community.    
     

4. Student Learning Assessment

   
4.1  The faculty documented or proposed indicators of student learning successes that are keyed to the learning objectives of the program.     
4.2  The faculty documented or proposd assessments of student learning that are grounded in best practices and appropriate comparisons.    
4.3  The faculty documented or proposed a periodically and systematically reviewed plan for using student learning assessments that leads to continuous improvements in the program.    
 4.4  The faculty documented or proposed a continuous improvement plan that incorporates multiple measures to assess student learning and program effectiveness.     
     

5. Quality Assurance

   

5.1  There is an evident commitment to making continuous quality improvements in the program (e.g., student advisement and mentoring, use of best practices, recognition of faculty performance, regular and systematic evaluation of student performance) a top priority.

   
5.2  The faculty documented or proposed ways to ensure that quality assurance will be a systematic and regular process for program improvement.     
5.3  The coursework offers sufficient breadth and depth appropriate for the degree offered.    
5.4  The faculty are documented to hold terminal degrees in the discipline in which they teach and have experience sufficient to serve as effective mentors for graduate students.     
5.5  Data on current students and follow-up data on graduating students including placement data are regularly and systematically collected.     
     

6.  Research Outcomes

   

6.1  The faculty documented or proposed a plan to ensure that there is a commitment to matching or exceeding comparable institutions in research activities.

   
6.2  The faculty documented or proposed a plan to assure sufficient depth and breadth in faculty research expertise to enable competitiveness in the external funding arena while allowing for collaboration when desired.    
     

7.  Research Environment

   

7.1  The faculty documented or proposed a plan to ensure a commitment to communicate the program's reserch environment, research values and priorities.

   
7.2  The faculty candidly and thoroughly examined the extent to which the department describes itself accurately and completely to current and prospective students and other "publics."    
7.3  The department takes active steps to support both junior and senior faculty in remaining vital in their respective research areas.    
7.4  The faculty documented or proposed a plan to ensure that departmental policies and procedures positively influence faculty research activities and competitiveness.     
7.5  The faculty documented or proposed a plan that engages graduate students in inquiry and research in collaboration with faculty.    
     

8.  Synergy with Education

   
8.1  The faculty documented or proposed a plan that honestly evaluates departmental resource demands in light of departmental research and scholarship's contribution to its educational programs and the mission of the department, college and university.    
 8.2  There is a commitment to activities designed to keep the faculty and students informed on contemporary issues related to research (e.g., lecture series, responsible conduct of research workshops, professional development activities).    
 8.3  The program demonstrates best practices in integrating the science with the practice of the discipline.     
8.4  The faculty candidly and thoroughly evaluated the extent to which they incorporate research into the educational programs in support of best practices.     
8.5  The program demonstrates best practices in addressing workload demands of theses and dissertations supervision.    
     

9.  Sponsored Programs

   
9.1  The faculty documented and proposed a plan to strive for sponsored research funding at comparable levels with other comparable departments within the institution and across peer institutions.     
 9.2  The faculty documented or proposed a plan to assure that faculty are consistently informed of external funding opportunities as well as the availability of assistance in areas such as proposal writing and project management.     
     
10.  Quality and Productivity Indicators    
10.1  There are appropriate indices endorsed by the program faculty as means to gauge faculty quality and productivity.    
10.2  The faculty documented or proposed ways to ensure that quality research and productivity will be systematically and regularly examined across the faculty lifespan.     
10.3  The culminating experience required by the program both in terms of comprehensives examination and/or research allows the student to demonstrate the breadth, depth and integration of the disciplinary coursework and experiences with the demonstration of communication skills and the ability to apply knowledge independently.    
     
11.  Contributions to Program, Departmental and University Goals    
11.1  There is a process in place which is communicated to other levels of the institution that evaluates the sufficiency of resources in place to meet the teaching responsibilities while actively engaging in research with graduate students and undergraduates.     
11.2  The faculty documented and proposed a plan to encourage and support research outcomes congruent with the department's purpose and the university mission.     
11.3  The faculty clearly state and embrace appropriate admission standards, completion standards and graduation reates which are readily available to prospective and current students.     
     
12.  Overall Assessment    
12.1  The Academic Audit process was faculty driven.     
12.2  The Academic Audit process (self-study and visit) included descriptions of the program's quality processes.     
12.3  The process resulted in a candid description of weaknesses in program processes and suggestions for improvements.     
12.4  Overall, the visiting team affirms the openness and thoroughness of the program faculty in completing the academic audit of this program.     
     
13.  Support    
13.1  The program regularly evaluates its library, equipment and facilities, encouraging necessary improvements within the context of overall college resources.     
13.2  The program's operating budget is consistent with the needs of the program.    
13.3  The operating budget is sufficient to attract quality students and provides adequate support without substantially delaying progress toward the degree.     
13.4  The program has a history of enrollment and graduation rates sufficient to sustain high quality and cost-effectiveness.     
13.5  The operating budget is sufficient to allow faculty regular opportunities for professional development including travel and presentation of research findings, participation in professional organizations, workshops and other learning activities.     
     
14.  Follow-Up of Previous Academic Audit    
14.1  An action plan was developed as a result of the previous Academic Audit.     
14.2  There is documented evidence that Recommendations made by the Academic Auditor Team have been considered and, when feasible and appropriate, implemented and tracked.     
14.3  There is documented evidence that the program has implemented and tracked the progress of and use of results from Improvement Initiatives cited by the faculty in its self study.