As part of University requirements for senior assessment, the Department of Political Science has developed a two-part process whereby seniors have the opportunity to demonstrate an acceptable level of competency in the discipline. Each component of the assessment process is geared toward determining the degree to which students have met the three learning goals established by the department faculty. Specifically, the writing assessment component has been designed to allow students the opportunity to demonstrate, with examples of papers and assignments drawn from their own classes, their mastery of each of the following three learning goals: a) Understanding Politics, b) Analyzing Politics, and c) Critically Evaluating Politics. The department’s curriculum mission and learning goals statements are below.
In order to pass this component successfully, students should choose a minimum of 3 of their best political science papers or writing assignments completed during their careers, and compile them into a writing portfolio. It is expected that the papers included will be the original, graded copies of the assignments. This portfolio should also include a summary essay of 3-4 double-spaced pages that explains each assignment, how it is related to one or more of the three learning goals, and most important, how it helped the student to meet the relevant learning goal(s). For the first two learning goals, Understanding Politics and Analyzing Politics, the “four specific learning goals” help clarify what is meant by these two learning goals. To show proficiency in these areas, students should reference some, but not necessarily all, of the specific goals. The number of papers included in the portfolio is at the discretion of the student, but there should be evidence that all three learning goals have been met when the portfolio is considered as a whole.
The writing portfolio should be submitted to the department chair via the department assistant simultaneously with the student’s submission of his/her bibliography for the oral component of the senior assessment. The deadline for this will be announced by the department chair at the annual senior meeting held in December each year. Each student portfolio will then be assessed by two professors drawn at random in conjunction with the student’s oral comprehensive exam. During the oral exam, in addition to responding to their prepared question, students also should be prepared to discuss their summary portfolio essay, and to defend their choice of sample papers included in the portfolio.
CURRICULUM MISSION AND LEARNING GOALS
Whether enrolled in a single political science course, or in a series of courses in preparation for a major or minor in the field, a student should complete the course of study better able to understand political and governmental structures and processes, and the presence and role of human diversity in the political world. An important part of the training in the field should enable the student to conduct political analysis, and to engage in critical evaluation of political issues, institutions, and processes.
A course of study in Political Science at Wittenberg involves a loose hierarchy of learning goals embedded in three broad categories consisting of
A) Understanding Politics,
B) Analyzing Poltics,
C) Critically Evaluating Politics
> Understanding Politics is considered the basic goal of the political science curriculum, and essentially refers to the ability of a student to describe the political world. Four specific learning goals related to this include: 1) describing the roles of citizens and/or subjects in different political systems, 2) describing political structures, institutions, processes, and systems, 3) identifying and describing interdisciplinary linkages important to the study of politics, and 4) describing different theories and methods of studying politics, and the role of theory in political analysis.
> Analyzing Politics refers to the ability of a student to utilize political science tools, concepts, theories, and data to explain the political world. While description is a fundamental component, at the heart of analysis is an effort to answer the essential “Why?” question. Given this, four specific learning goals in this category include:
1) demonstrating an ability to utilize the comparative framework, and theoretical models, for studying politics,
2) demonstrating proficiency in the use of various tools of analysis such as library research skills, computer skills, and data collection techniques,
3) demonstrating proficiency in the presentation of information, particularly empirical data, and
4) demonstrating the ability to create a research design.
> Critically Evaluating Politics is a higher order skill that involves the melding of understanding and analysis to achieve the capacity to make reasoned judgments about the differences and relative merits of various political institutions, processes, and behavior.