Outcomes Data: Literature

2020-21  2019-20   2018-19   2017-18   2016-17   2015-16    2014-15   2013-14   2012-13   2011-12   2010-11

2020-21Outcomes Data

Alan Blackstock and Brian McCuskey evaluated a group of 6 essays, and Adena Rivera-Dundas evaluated 6 other essays, for a total of twelve essays written by graduating Literature emphasis students. The readers evaluated each essay in light of the department’s three common learning objectives. The cumulative tally is recorded in the table below.

Direct Measures

Common Learning Objectives

 

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

 

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

 

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments

0

6

4

8

Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing assumptions and implications

0

3

11

4

Learning Objective 3: Communicates ideas effectively in writing

0

0

10

8

 

Indirect Measures

Dr. Brian McCuskey conducted exit interviews with five graduating literature seniors in April 2021 via email. Surveys were conducted by email rather than face to face due to Covid-19 restrictions. Nine graduating seniors responded to the following questions:

  • Why did you choose the Literature emphasis?
  • Did the Literature emphasis provide the education and experience you hoped for?
  • What suggestions do you have for improving the emphasis and its courses?
  • What strengths should the Literature emphasis be sure to retain?
  • Is there anything else you would like the Literature faculty to know?

Students wrote lengthy answers for each question, the sum of which is included below:

  1. Why did you choose the Literature emphasis?
  • Learned argument construction and analysis while reading great books.
  • Took 2600 and “understood the incredible power of literary analysis in a new way.”
  • Analyzing literature is their passion.
  • The credits they had aligned with requirements for Literature emphasis, and enjoyed how Literature courses “forced me to be quick and analytical in my thinking.”
  • “The courses for this emphasis fit my interests well, and I loved being challenged in my ideas.”
  • Enjoyed reading in high school; now wants to become a literature professor.
  • “The Literature emphasis would allow me to do something that I love while learning how to effectively write.”
  • Dabbled in tech writing but found the literature classes more interesting.
  • Unsure between literature and tech writing; “I decided the Literature emphasis would give me a useful background while also being fun and engaging.”
  1. Did the Literature emphasis provide the education and experience you hoped for?
  • Several students note that they are better writers, readers, and researchers for having studied literature.
  • Wanted to better understand classic literary works and lesser-known authors, and got what they wanted.
  • “Choosing the Literature emphasis is the best decision I made. My professors were excellent, and I could always count on quality feedback from them on my writing.”
  • Praised professors for their dedication, passion, and seriousness.
  • Felt the education was narrow and “very much at the whim of whichever professor I was taking from/their interpretation of what was important. There didn't seem to be a central theme or skill set that they wanted us to leave with and I felt aimless as I reached what I would have hoped to be the peak of my career in this department and major.”
  • “Yes, because I feel like I have become a better writer, critical thinker, and communicator in this major. No, because I don't know how to synthesize what I have learned as I try to find a job. I wish there had been some sort of Capstone class that helped me to pull everything I'd learned together and understand it. Instead, I feel like I have unconnected pieces of knowledge.”
  • "I have learned so much about people and the world. I feel like I've developed skills in listening, learning, analyzing, communicating, writing, researching, and so much more. It especially helped me develop more confidence.”
  1. What suggestions do you have for improving the emphasis and its courses?
  • Pay more attention to the formal elements of literature, not just historical contexts.
  • Create a forum where students can request class topics.
  • A few asked for more diversity in the literature studied, not just British, American, and European literature.
  • Have professors collaborate “so that the skills that students leave with are intentional, and diverse. This occurring seems to be an accident in this department, and often doesn't happen for students as a result, depending on which teachers they take from/are available.”
  • Wants more direction in the emphasis and a clearer road map through the major; found the freedom nice at first but it “soon became frustrating.”
  • One student was very disappointed in their “capstone,” by which presumably they mean one of the 5000-level literature seminars. They wanted courses at the 4000 level or higher, and especially the 5000-level seminars, to be taught by seasoned instructors.
  • One student was pre-med and felt that their English advisor was poorly equipped to advise them in the pre-med curriculum.
  1. What strengths should the Literature emphasis be sure to retain?
  • Several praised the faculty for their dedication and excellence.
  • The perfect balance of class discussion and lecture.
  • A “standard where ethical, humane behaviors are met with quality academic achievement.”
  • The opportunity to read a diverse range of texts.
  • The opportunity to strengthen their writing in many essay assignments every semester.
  • Developing skills in writing, research, and communication.
  • The safe and supportive environment.
  1. Is there anything else you would like the Literature faculty to know?
  • Faculty are supportive of students and know them individually.
  • Students expressed happiness with their level of education.

Data-based Decisions

Data-based decisions correlated to direct measures

All the essays in the representative pool at least met the primary essay-writing objectives of the Literature emphasis. Several essays went further and showed full mastery of the objectives. But in contrast to recent previous years, the assessors judged several essays to fall into the “marginal” range in objective #1, “reach compelling conclusions,” and objective #2, “Weigh alternative systems of thought.”

Several factors might help account for this. One is the obvious pandemic factor: the entire academic year was unsettled and anxious and taught in a confusing diversity of mediums. Another was churn and turnover in the Literature faculty in the last two years; several professors moved into administrative roles and taught fewer courses, a couple were on sabbatical and/or had course reassignments, and a few retired or took other jobs. All this meant more literature courses were staffed by postdoctoral fellows and lecturers who might have been less attuned to the declared objectives than the tenure-line faculty.

Mitigating factors notwithstanding, Literature faculty should discuss and perhaps recodify the expectations and objectives for student writing in our emphasis courses. If these are the objectives we have collectively decided on as important outcomes of the education we give our students, is every class assigning essays that help students reach them?

Data-based decisions that rely on indirect measures

Overall, students who returned their survey expressed high satisfaction with their courses and with faculty/student interaction in and beyond the classroom. Students expressed how valuable they find the mentoring by dedicated faculty who are passionate about what they teach.

The mitigating factors of pandemic disruption and faculty short staffing also account for some of the survey comments that convey dissatisfaction. For example, the students who wanted more exposure to world literature came through the program during a period when the specialist in postcolonial world literature was on sabbatical and teaching fewer courses due to a course release. Some of the staffing problems will fix themselves as we fill empty Literature lines in the next two years.

Regardless, the survey comments might lead the faculty to discuss whether the more laissez-faire approach to course requirements implemented in recent years have left some students feeling lost at sea in the Literature curriculum. One student, for example, feels like they “have unconnected pieces of knowledge” and no ability to synthesize it. The committee might have a discussion about the student’s suggestion of a capstone course, abandoned long ago by the emphasis. The Literature faculty might also coordinate with the English peer mentors to communicate context and strategies for navigating the curriculum.

The department- and college-wide initiatives already in progress to develop career development plans for humanities and social sciences students will also address some of the students’ requests for a more intentional foregrounding of the skills they develop through Literature courses. The faculty will continue discussing how this can happen at every level of the Literature curriculum.

2019-20 Outcomes Data

Direct Measures

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 0 5 15
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 0 8 12
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 0 6 14

Indirect Measures

Dr. Brian McCuskey conducted exit interviews with five graduation literature seniors in April 2020 via email. Surveys were conducted by email rather than face to face due to Covid-19 restrictions. Six graduating seniors responded to the following questions:

  • Why did you choose the Literature emphasis?
  • Did the Literature emphasis provide the education and experience you hoped for?
  • What suggestions do you have for improving the emphasis and its courses?
  • What strengths should the Literature emphasis be sure to retain?
  • Is there anything else you would like the Literature faculty to know?

Students wrote lengthy answers for each question, the sum of which is included below:

  1. Why did you choose the Literature emphasis?
  • Best fit for student’s interests (reading and writing)
  • Belief that reading/analyzing texts improves one’s mind and overall being.
  • Emphasis good for developing thinking/analytical abilities.
  • Wanted more exposure to different kinds of literature and/or genres.
  • Wanted to improve one’s creative writing.
  • Transferred in from another major and Literature was easier/quicker to complete than English Ed emphasis.
  • High school English teacher suggested taking a literature class.
  • ENGL 2600 and literary histories were more compelling than creative writing.
  1. Did the Literature emphasis provide the education and experience you hoped for?
  • All interviewees indicated yes; one student offered a suggestion (see last bullet point)
  • Classes were overall scholarly, engaging, and educational.
  • Variety of courses useful and enjoyable; classes made student more well rounded and a better thinker in general.
  • Enjoyed discussions with other students and faculty.
  • Fantastic faculty.
  • Improved writing and analytical skills.
  • Learned about other cultures and genres of literature.
  • Emphasis should include job skills and work experience.
  1. What suggestions do you have for improving the emphasis and its courses?
  • Solicit student input on special topics courses or authors courses.
  • Create more sense of community built through once-a semester meetings with Literature students.
  • A few professors handled uncomfortable or challenging topics in a negative way, by getting “on angry soapboxes.” Students are silenced when faculty don’t model patient and calm discussions.
  • Create more opportunities and emphasis on real world experience. Show students how to apply classroom knowledge and skills to jobs. Prepare students better for the job market.
  • Create better balance in the coursework between the levels (i.e. rethink 3000 level courses that have the work of a 5000 level, and vice versa)
  • Incorporate more hands-on activities in the classes (student cite a curated exhibit in a class as well as a tech comm class where they learned to use InDesign and HTML coding.) Create projects that benefit the community or can be published, for job experience.
  • Offer more genres and authors classes. It is frustrating planning out classes.
  • Teach more about literary theory; offer an introduction to theory class.
  1. What strengths should the Literature emphasis be sure to retain?
  • Presenting at USU Student Research Symposium for a class project.
  • Maintaining small classes is important for the program. 
  • Keeping attendance policies to discourage absences.
  • Keep offering a variety of classes, especially Special Topics.
  • Encouraging, respectful, passionate, and knowledgeable professors invested in student success.
  • It is helpful to have online and distance-ed classes for non traditional students.
  • Hands-on projects that culminate in real-life job experience.
  • Keep discussion and literature exploration central to the classroom.
  1. Is there anything else you would like the Literature faculty to know?
  • Faculty are supportive of students and know them individually.
  • Students expressed happiness with their level of education.

2018-19 Outcomes Data

In Fall 2018, Mattie Burkert and Shane Graham of the Literature Area Committee met to evaluate 11 essays by 8 graduating Literature students. The essays are from the Fall of 2017 and the Spring of 2018. The two readers evaluated each essay in light of three learning objectives.

Direct Measures

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 2 8 10
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 2 7 11
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 2 11 7

Indirect Measures

The Literature faculty met with a focus group of 6 graduating seniors in April 2019.  The seniors first discussed the strengths and weaknesses of Literature curriculum and coursework without faculty present, and then shared their collective assessment with the faculty.  In sum:

Strengths:

Faculty support for student research

Faculty passion for subject matter

Faculty availability for office consultation

High but fair grading standards

Coherence of the curriculum

Emphasis on liberal arts knowledge and skills

Range of authors, genres, and periods

Discussion-based classrooms

 

Recommendations:

Offer more courses beyond British and American literature

Offer more courses that focus on narrower sets of texts

Publish course descriptions sooner and more consistently

Develop a stronger sense of community in the emphasis

Provide training in employment paths and career development

2017-18 Outcomes Data

In Fall 2018, Mattie Burkert and Shane Graham of the Literature Area Committee met to evaluate 11 essays by 8 graduating Literature students. The essays are from the Fall of 2017 and the Spring of 2018. The two readers evaluated each essay in light of three learning objectives.

Direct Measures

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 3 11 8
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 1 9 12
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 3 13 6

Indirect Measures

The Literature faculty met with a focus group of 5 graduating seniors in April 2018.  The seniors first discussed the strengths and weaknesses of Literature curriculum and coursework without faculty present, and then shared their collective assessment with the faculty.  In sum:

Strengths:

Encouragement and support for undergraduate research

Accessibility of professors for individual help

Variety/diversity of course offerings

Balance between “coverage”/survey courses and more in-depth courses

 

Recommendations:

More career orientation, preparation for job market; continue to develop internship program

Use Digital Commons and Special Collections in coursework more often.

Assign more long papers (10+ pages)

Incorporate literary theory and new technologies into more classes

2016-17 Outcomes Data

In November, 2017, Paul Crumbley and Phebe Jensen of the Literature Area Committee met to evaluate the work of 10 graduating Literature students. The essays are from the Fall of 2016 and the Spring of 2017. The two readers evaluated each essay in light of three learning objectives.

DIRECT MEASURES

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 1 13 6
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 1 14 5
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 1 16 3

Indirect Measures

The Literature faculty met with a focus group of 7 graduating seniors in April 2017.  The seniors first discussed the strengths and weaknesses of Literature curriculum and coursework without faculty present, and then shared their collective assessment with the faculty.  In sum: 

Strengths:

Quality of courses overall

Lively, open discusssions

Challenging, provocative writing assignments

Accessibility of professors for individual help

Recommendations:

Continue to make curriculum more flexible

Increase diversity of courses

Organize career panels of English alumni

Revise ENGL 2600 as a bridge to upper-level courses

2015-16 Outcomes Data

Direct Measures

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 0 3 7
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 0 3 7
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 0 3 7

Indirect Measures

The Literature faculty met with a focus group of 5 graduating seniors in April 2016.  The seniors first discussed the strengths and weaknesses of Literature curriculum and coursework without faculty present, and then shared their collective assessment with the faculty.  In sum:

Strengths:

Accessible professors who take an interest in individual students

Careful attention to writing skills; lots of specific feedback

Variety and range of British and American literary texts

Clear progression of course objectives from level to level

 

Weaknesses:

Requirements too rigid: would like more choice and electives

Not enough world literature in curriculum

Need more emphasis on translating critical into career skills

2014-15 Outcomes Data

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 1 7 2
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 1 6 3
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 2 7 1


2013-14 Outcomes Data

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 0 8 2
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 1 5 4
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 0 7 3


2012-13 Outcomes Data

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 5 5 2
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 1 10 1
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 1 9 2


2011-12 Outcomes Data

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 2 8 2
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 1 8 3
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 0 7 5


2010-11 Outcomes Data

Common Learning Objectives in Literature

Unacceptable:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is not provided, is unconvincing, or very incomplete

Marginal:

Evidence that the student has mastered this objective is provided, but it is weak or incomplete

Acceptable:

Evidence shows that the student has generally attained the objective

Exceptional:

Evidence demonstrates that the student has mastered this objective at a high level

Learning Objective 1: Reach compelling conclusions through the development of critical arguments, professional documents, or creative texts 0 3 6 5
Learning Objective 2: Weigh alternative systems of thought or approaches, recognizing their assumptions and implications 0 2 7 5
Learning Objective 3: Communicate ideas effectively through writing. 0 1 8 5